With this week’s Photo of the Week, we congratulate the graduates of 2020!
The photograph above shows the graduating class of P.S. 15 in the year 1900. The school stood on Third Avenue between Schermerhorn and State streets. Today it is the home of the Khalil Gibran International Academy High School, but you can still see evidence of its history above the entrances, where there appears a “Public School” sign in terra cotta over one door, and “Public School No. 15” over another.
We are fortunate that on the back of the photo, the donor identified many of the girls (though none of the boys), allowing us to use census records and other historic sources to help reveal their stories. One of the students identified is Harriet P. Merrill—standing in the third row, second from left. Harriet was born in Columbus, Ohio but sometime around 1895 it seems that her mother died and she came to Brooklyn to live with her mother’s cousin, the celebrated Brooklyn doctor, Verina Morton Jones. It is not surprising that Dr. Morton Jones would take in her cousin’s daughter; she did, after all, devote her life to helping others, both through her medical practice and her advocacy.
Dr. Morton Jones lived at 395 Gold Street near the corner of Willoughby Street in downtown Brooklyn, along with her mother, her son, and Harriet. There, Harriet would have witnessed a tremendous amount of organizing and advocacy for the rights and wellbeing of African Americans, especially the girls and women arriving in Brooklyn from the South as part of the Great Migration. She likely helped Dr. Morton Jones host meetings and receptions from the home, including a reception in 1904 for Ida B. Welles—a longtime friend of Dr. Morton Jones.
Dr. Morton Jones was president of the Equal Suffrage League and a member of the board of the NAACP; she was a cofounder, along with Mary White Ovington, of the Mother’s Day Nursery, the Lincoln Settlement House, and the Cosmopolitan Society of America. She also helped found the National Urban League and the Association for the Protection of Colored Women.
This photograph is from the Early Brooklyn and Long Island photograph collection (ARC.201). Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. We look forward inviting you back to BHS is the future to research in our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections. In the meantime, please visit our digital collections, available here. Our reference staff are still available to help with your research! You can reach us at [email protected]