Longtime Civil Rights Activists Who Fought for the Desegregation of Plainfield Schools
PLAINFIELD, N.J. — The Plainfield Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to name the new school building that will be built on the site of the former Woodland Elementary School "The Charles and Anna Booker School." The Bookers, who reside in the Queen City, are civil rights activists who fought for the desegregation of Plainfield Public Schools, and are active members of the community.
In 1965, Mr. Booker, an Army Veteran who worked for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and his wife Anna, the first African American teacher in Metuchen, brought the suit against the Plainfield Board of Education after numerous attempts failed to correct the imbalance in education for African American students in town.
Mrs. Booker said the books were outdated, the education was inferior and the children were feeling neglected by their schools. With the help of the NAACP and its lead litigator, Robert L. Carter, the Bookers sued and won.
The case, Charles B. Booker v. The Board of Education of the City of Plainfield, was decided on June 28, 1965. The suit changed how students were placed in schools and how funding was allocated. It also changed how boards were chosen. Mr. Booker said, “We fought to have the board elected by the voters rather than appointed by the mayor."
Plainfield Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Diana Mitchell said a ceremony to officially name the school, which is expected to be completed in 2022, will be organized at a later date when students and the Plainfield community can come together to honor the Bookers for this historic event.
Dr. Mitchell congratulated the board on Tuesday for its decision, and said she was proud. "It is extremely important that a school’s name is reflective of its community.”
The name of the school was chosen by a 16-member committee convened by the superintendent after a policy was adopted by the board to provide a process for the naming of school-owned property. As a result, the naming of the school was accomplished, along with the naming of the track at Hub Stine Field. The track is now officially named the Milt Campbell Track.
Watch: Board approves naming of school to be built at site of old Woodland Elementary
Board of Education member Richard Wyatt said, “This is a monumental moment for the Plainfield Board of Education. I am proud to have been a part of memorializing the efforts of Charles and Anna Booker, and all of the appellants in this landmark case.”
Board Member Carmencita Pile read the historic resolution into the record. (Pile had made a motion as far back as 2018 to name the new school building after the Bookers.)
When reached at home with the news, the Bookers said they had been receiving calls all day from well-wishers.
Mrs. Booker said, “This is amazing. We are in shock. It’s such an outstanding tribute to us, and we are blessed that God has given us the strength and the mind to do what you folks say we have done. We don’t take the credit.
“It’s exciting and I think (we are feeling) all the positive emotions you can imagine, it’s exciting, it’s outstanding, and we’re just grateful that someone felt that we deserve this kind of honor. We are humbled. Really. We are humbled by it.”
Mr. Booker said, “This is something we didn’t plan for. We had no idea this would come out of the work that we did. The legend goes on for us, for other lives to witness. We are very happy.”