Manumit Timeline

Manumit School: Brief Chronology

1924 Reverend William Mann Fincke and his wife, Helen Hamlin, founded Manumit as a co-educational, elementary-level, non-denominational, boarding school on a working farm in Pawling, New York. [It was closely associated with a number of NYC labor unions. A. J. Muste was Chair of Manumit Associates/Board for a number of years. See “A New Community School,” The Survey, 10/15/1924 & Rev. W. M. Fincke, “Elsie Wins a Point and We Get a View of Manumit,” Labor Age, 11/1925. “an alliance of progressive labor and progressive education” See: ScottWalter, “Labor’s Demonstration School: The Manumit School for Workers’ Children, 1924-1932,” 1998. 26 pp. (ERIC: ED473025) See: Threescore: The Autobiography of Sarah N. Cleghorn (1936) p. 253-81. Cleghorn, a poet, taught at early Brookwood, then Manumit, 1924 to early 1930’s.]


1926 Henry I. Linville became interim Director upon illness of Rev. Fincke. [“The Manumit Yearbook: 1927,” 38 pp., includes group activity descriptions, lists of Associates, staff, and of current and former students, Web-site]


1927Rev. Fincke died. [See: “GALLANT SPIRIT passed from us…” The Nation, 6/15/1927. New York Times, 6/1/1927. Memorial Service notes, 24 pages, June 7, 1924 at Timiment Library.]


1928Nellie M. Seeds became Director. [See: Nellie Seeds: “Democracy in the Making at Manumit School,” The Nation, 6/1/1927; “Labor’s Laboratory School,” The Survey, 6/15/1927; “Manumit’s Contribution to Social Reconstruction,” Progressive Education, 5/1931. Annual Conference of the Manumit Associates: ”Learning Through Doing;” (1928); “Creative Education,” (1929); “Educational Groundwork for a Changing Social Order,” (1931); NY University Tamiment Library.] [Seeds resigned in 1933; joined NY State Education Department. Died, 1946.]


1933 William Mann Fincke [son of Rev. WMF & Hamlin] became Co-Director, with wife, Mildred Gignoux. [“By 1933 the school was debt-ridden…and only a half dozen pupils remained….” “Sometimes the children’s welfare seemed subordinated to indoctrination of pet political and social ideas favored by directors or staff members…” (See: William L. Stephenson, “A Brief Note on Manumit School,” 1943, Web site)] [William & Mildred were both experienced with “experimental/ progressive” education in NYC. On his background re progressive education see: Fincke, “History” in “Manuscript,” 1949. Web-site.]


1938 Progressive Schools’ Committee for Refugee Children formed under leadership of Mildred and William Fincke. [At least 23 Jewish refugee children attended Manumit. (See: Time Magazine, 3/27/1939). (See also: records of German-Jewish Children’s Aid, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, NYC). Manumit “contacts with European underground and resistance groups, and with Jewish groups, both dating back to 1935, later contacts with British groups (during the blitz of 1940) greatly enriched the enrollment with interesting evacuee children.” (WMF fund-raising document, c. 1945-46, Web-site)]


1942 First two years of high school added to the elementary school. [“Broad Meadows” campus. See: Barbara Dutton Dretzin 2006 e-mail recollections, Web-site; Steve Stevenson “Manumit” evocative 11 page recollections Web-site.]


1943William I. Stephenson became Director. [WM Fincke attended Yale Univ. to pursue doctorate.]


1943Fire destroyed major school building, the “Mill.” [Fire: 10/25/1943. Most school records destroyed.]


1944William M. Fincke (“Billy”) resumed directorship with wife, Amelia Evans. [W. M. Fincke, “A Philosophy of Discipline” (1941) & W. M. Fincke, “Memorandum on Manumit School” (n.d. probably late 1940’s), Web-site.] [On Amelia re Manumit see WMF, “History” in “Manuscript,” 1949, Web-site. In mid-1960’s Amelia was Superintendent of Eastern Star Home for the Aged in Somerville, NJ. Died, 12/1972.]


1944 School moved to Bristol, Bensalem Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. [On move see: Barbara Dutton Dretzin e-mail, 5/5/2006, Web-site.] [W. M. Fincke: “The staff is as cosmopolitan as the student body. It … has included Chinese, Nisei, American Negro, American Indian, English, Czechoslovakian, Scandinavian…German and Austrian anti-nazis [sic.] along with many members of the so-called old American group…. Judaism, Catholicism, Quakerism and Ethical Agnosticism as well as Protestantism are stimulatingly included in the backgrounds…” (W. M. Fincke fund-raising document, c. 1945-46, Web-site)]


1947 Benjamin C. G. Fincke (“Ben”) [son of founders], with wife, Magdalene (“Magda”) Joslyn, became Co-Director.


1949 Final two years of High School created.


1950School adopts “work project” experiment. [See: report by W. M. Fincke to Board of Directors of School, 11/27/1950, Web-site. & Dixon Addison Bush, “An Experimental Study of Techniques for Instituting Cooperative Work Programs with Adolescent Students,” Education Doctoral Dissertation, New York University, 1951. 313 pages]


1951First full High School graduation. [1950-57–approx. 43-50 graduates: of 42 on a list, 29 attended colleges, 3 art schools, 1 technical school, others employed. (See: alumni list, “Manumit Closes,” Web-site) Note: one student graduated in 1950.]


1954 Benjamin Fincke resigned. [see: Manumit Board resolution of appreciation, 1956, Web Site.] [Later: Co-Director then Director of Buxton School, Williamstown, MA. He died in Williamstown, MA, 2/18/2003. (See: New York Times, 6/1/2003). Magda, co-director and art teacher at Buxton, died 8/13/2004.]


1954John A. Lindlof, student at Pawling and teacher at Bristol, became Co-Director.


‘50’s “Manumit … growth toward its interracial ideal was no mere token thing…” [“Negro children had reached 14%;” children of Asian descent had reached 8%. (See: fund-raising memo by WMF, c. mid-1950’s, Web-site). “The complete respect for human beings as human beings and for their backgrounds as important parts of their personalities, the lack of prejudice of racial nature…are so taken for granted that the administrator whose job it is to maintain this enriching heterogeneity is often the only person who continues conscious of it.” (WM Fincke, fundraising document, c. 1945-46, Web-site)]


1956 Overt external attacks on school began. [Fire hazard inspections: “Local political manipulations are suspected because housing projects have recently surrounded the school and certain residents may object to the interracial status of the school, or local promoters may see the value of the school property…” (See: telegram to President Eisenhower, 9/26/1956, Web-site)]


57/58School closed following denial of license renewal for 1958 by the State Board of Private Academic Schools, PA Department of Public Instruction. [Property sold in 8/1963. School records destroyed.] [The Board Secretary/inspector ”has singled this school out for complaint over a long period of time, and there is every reason to believe that she is prejudiced against an integrated school, and against its director…” (See: “Respondent’s Brief,” Web-Site & testimony by William M. Fincke, 12/1957, Tamiment Library.)] [See: Mike Speer (c. 2006 email) speculative linking of attacks to Brown v. Board of Education backlash, “Manumit Ends,” Web-site]


[NOTE: William Mann Fincke died on 1/4/1968 in Stonington CT, he had been teaching remedial reading in the area since 1963. (W. M. Fincke, “The Effect of Asking Questions to Develop Purposes for Reading on the Attainment of Higher Levels of Comprehension in a Population of Third Grade Readers,” Education Doctoral Dissertation, Temple University, 1968. 140 pages. Completed in 1967.)]

[NOTE: John A. Lindlof died in 1982 in Maine. He had become Professor of Education at the University of Maine at Orono in 1961, where there is now (2010) a “John A. Lindlof Learning Center.”]

[NOTE: In 2005, and after, many former Manumit students rediscovered each other via the Web, and a Web-site (includes: documents, photographs, lists, contemporary e-mail exchanges) was created by one of them and contributed to by many former students.]

{Source: Manumit School Web-Site & Manumit School Collection, New York University, Tamiment Library]

[Prepared by: Michael Speer, 2010]