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Dr. Edward F. Carpenter 

(Interviewed by Audrey Henson on 9/9/1985. Transcription: 9 pages)

Summary: 
Dr. Edward Carpenter moved to Teaneck with his family in 1965. He was drawn to the township because of the publicity of its excellent schools and its serious attempt at integrating the community. He also saw it as an opportunity for his daughter to attend what was known as some of the best schools in the Northeastern U.S. (p. 1).

Dr. Carpenter says he immediately became involved in organizational and community work. One of those affiliations included the Northeast Community Organization (NECO) whose purpose was to keep the community viable and to avert the vicious tactic called blockbusting or the illegal steering away of one person to a community by an unscrupulous realtor using scare tactics. The narrator says because of NECO 's efforts, we were able to avoid that type of real estate stampede. Dr. Carpenter's interest in the youth in the area led him to devise a scholarship informational board, which became somewhat of a thesaurus for young people looking for scholarship help. Through the efforts of everybody in NECO as well as others outside the area, we obtained names of unknown scholarship sources. The narrator sees this as an invaluable resource for young people, who having moved into a "middle class" or "upper middle class" mobile community, find it more difficult to get scholarships. Dr. Carpenter, however, considers this group to be the mortgaged poor along with himself (p. 1-2).

Dr. Carpenter was invited to join the Health Committee not long after moving to Teaneck which acted in an advisory role to the Health Department. In 1966, Dr. Carpenter and his family joined the Baha'i community on Alicia and Forest Avenues in Teaneck. The narrator was attracted to the equality principles in their literature, and he believes it to be an important movement within the township (p. 3). Later Dr. Carpenter became interested in a volunteer publication called THE TORCHBEARER under the leadership of the late Dr. Walter Taylor. The paper was informational and inspirational in its thrust and addressed topics concerning minority citizens, the poorer elements lacking large salaries, and the growing aged population. The writers hoped its readership would become involved in problem-solving. Located in the basement of the Galilee Church of Englewood, the publication had a circulation of 2,000 subscribers and attracted the attention of THE BERGEN RECORD and THE SUBURBANITE which, according to Dr. Carpenter, offered technical assistance. The paper was in existence from the fall of 1979 till the fall of 1983 (p. 3 -5).

Dr. Carpenter remembers the Sixties as being a time when bright students became disillusioned and were dropping out of, or leaving, school before they should. Lt. Green, then Sgt. Green of the Teaneck Police Department was working with the Youth Department. He obtained a storefront on Teaneck Road and West Forest Avenue with little to no money and established a Center for young black people which came to be called Pieces of Eight. Sgt. Green would speak to them about social and positive behavior and arrange for outside speakers and artists to come in and teach them the Swahili language and African movement in dance. Dr. Carpenter points out that even though these children had professional parents possessing high and many degrees, their children were going in a different social direction. He credits Sgt. Green for steering a great deal of young people in a more positive direction (p. 5 - 7).

In 1967, Dr. Carpenter was made headmaster of an experimental/alternative school called Harlem Prep. Its sole purpose was to place students who had dropped out of high school into colleges and universities throughout the United States and the world. The structural or educational model reflected the collective input from faculty, students, parents and community; and, in Dr. Carpenter's opinion, that is why the youth from Teaneck fared well (p. 7).

Dr. Carpenter concludes his narration with a perspective of what happened in Teaneck the night following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He recalls that a memorial service was being held at Teaneck High School and that Robert Hayden, poet laureate and consultant for the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., was visiting Teaneck to speak to the Baha'is. In this regard, the high school was contacted and told that Mr. Hayden, a personal friend of Dr. King, had written a poem for him. Mr. Hayden was warmly welcomed to appear on the program that evening. Dr. Carpenter remembers that after Robert Hayden read his poem, BROTHER KING, the anger and hostility that so many of us were experiencing dissolved (p. 8 - 9).

 

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