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    "It was strongly urged before me that separate Schools were of much more benefit to the Colored people than mixed Schools."

    Grover Cleveland Autograph Letter Signed "Grover Cleveland" as President, four pages, 4.5" x 7.25", conjoined sheets, front and verso. On Executive Mansion, Washington stationery, August 27, 1887. To G.A. Sullivan, Esq. In full, "Your letter of inquiry regarding the truth of the report that I approved a bill while Governor authorizing mixed schools in the State of New York is received. The only bill that I know of being passed and approved on that subject while I was Governor was one affecting the City of New York, and had precisely the contrary effect - that is, its purpose and object was to retain the Colored Schools separate and distinct from those for the Whites. Mr. Nelson J. Waterbury of New York City I think drew the bill; and Prof. [Charles] Rasin [sic, Reason] Supt of Colored Schools, and Rev Mr [William B.] Derrick both of N. Y. City, advocated it strongly. The school Board of N. Y. City had determined to consolidate these Schools with the White Schools; and the bill took them out of the control of the Board so that it should not be done. It was strongly urged before me that separate Schools were of much more benefit to the Colored people than mixed Schools. I approved the bill and I suppose in the City of N. Y. Colored Schools are separately maintained to day by virtue of its provisions. I have thus given you all I remember on the subject of your inquiry. I have been much surprised at hearing before the receipt of your letter, that this matter has been so grossly misrepresented." With original 4.5" x 3.75" Executive Mansion envelope, most of postage stamp torn off, postmarked Washington, D.C., August 27, 1887. Torn open at right edge, upper edge frayed. Addressed by Cleveland to "G.A. Sullivan Esq/(Ed. Montgomery Democrat)/Blacksburg/Va." The Montgomery Democrat was published weekly from 1886-1891. On October 28, 1884, just one week before the 1884 presidential election, in an article entitled "A Republican Scheme Exposed/Making False Statements About Gov. Cleveland and Colored Schools," The New York Times uncovered exactly what President Cleveland addresses in this letter: "A damper has been put upon a clever scheme by which the Republican National Committee has sought to create a feeling against Gov. Cleveland among Southern Democrats. Those gentlemen were told that Gov. Cleveland was in favor of mixing the colored and white races in public schools, and had approved legislation looking to that end. The facts in the case, as shown by the only bill affecting colored schools which Gov. Cleveland has been called upon to consider, show a condition exactly the reverse of that represented by the Republican National Committee. The act in question was entitled 'An act in relation to public education in the city of New-York,' and was passed May 5, 1884. It provided that 'the colored schools in the city of New-York now existing and in operation shall heretofore be classed and known and be continued as ward schools and primaries, with their present teachers, unless such teachers are removed in the manner provided by law, and such schools shall be under the control and management of the school officers of the respective wards in which they are located in the same manner and to the same extent as other ward schools, and shall be open for the education of pupils for whom admission is sought without regard to race or color.' Prof. Reason, the colored teacher who was substituted for the Rev. Mr. Derrick as Republican Elector from the Seventh Congressional District, appeared before the Governor and argued in favor of his approving the bill, and that action was taken by Mr. Cleveland." In the November 4th election, Cleveland defeated Republican James G. Blaine of Maine, 219-182 electoral votes, winning every southern state. On September 10, 1884, The New York Times, in an article entitled "The Colored Public Schools./The Board of Education Enjoined From Removing One of Them," had reported that in "New-York there has been for the past few years only two public schools devoted exclusively to the education of colored children...One of these schools was on Seventeenth-street...the other was in Forty-first-street - a large three-story brick building - under the Principalship of Prof. Charles Reason, a colored gentleman of considerable education. The Board of Education decided that as the colored pupils only half filled the building on Forty-first-street, known as School No. 80, they would transfer them to the school building in Forty-second-street and put two departments of other schools in the big building. But on Monday morning, the day of the opening of the public schools, they were met by an injunction from Prof. Reason, restraining them from using or occupying the old building except for School No. 80. Mr. Reason's attorney is Nelson J. Waterbury, Jr. of No. 152 Broadway. 'The truth of the matter is,' he said yesterday, 'that the Board of Education has been trying to freeze out these schools, and now the question is whether they shall observe the law or not. They moved the school No. 80 - or attempted to - to Forty-second-street, a block further away from the colored children than the old location. The building there is old and not fit for a school...' Said Commissioner Wood, of the Board of Education, to a Times reporter, 'it was not only for the benefit of the scholars but of the teachers as well that we decided to move the school, for the building on Forty-second-street is much better suited to the uses of the school than the old one...A law was quietly passed at the last Legislature that the colored schools be considered as ward schools. We intend to observe the law, of course, but thought the change advisable...'" From Control by Blacks Over Schools in New York State, 1830-1930 by Carlton Mabee, in The Phylon Quarterly, Vol. 40 No. 1 (1979): "In 1884 when the New York City Board of Education threatened to close all its black schools and Negroes tried in vain to persuade the board to protect the jobs of black teachers, blacks went over the heads of the board to the legislature. Negroes enlisted the impressive political skills of black Methodist pastor William B. Derrick of New York City, and of black Democratic lawyer James C. Mathews (sic, Matthews) of Albany. With their help, Negroes won the support of Governor Grover Cleveland, and succeeded in pushing through the legislature a special law to keep the black schools open and to protect the teachers." The facts support what Pres. Cleveland has written in this letter. The purpose of the bill signed by him as Governor of New York was to keep the colored schools open in New York City. While the law provided that they must admit students "without regard to race or color," in effect, it continued their existence. On May 18, 1896, during President Cleveland's second term, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana state law that allowed for "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races," deciding that it did not violate the rights established in the 14th Amendment. On May 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decided unanimously that "segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children...Any language in Plessy v. Ferguson contrary to this finding is rejected. We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place." There is soiling on the first and fourth pages which are nicked at the edges of the folds resulting in a hole in the blank area where the conjoined edge and the mid-horizontal fold meet. Overall condition is fine. Rarely does a presidential letter relating to school segregation appear on the market. This one relating to "Colored schools," "White schools," and "mixed schools" in New York City in the 1880s and the use of "dirty tricks" by the Republicans against Grover Cleveland is extraordinarily desirable.

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