Current students and alumni from some of the United States’ most prestigious and wealthiest private schools are speaking out about their experiences with racism at their respective institutions.
Instagram accounts have popped up for Black students to share their own disturbing stories from their time at elite schools including Phillips Exeter Academy, Phillips Academy Andover, Greenwich Academy, Brunswick School, The Chapin, The Dalton School, and The Brearley School.
Posts submitted to these accounts — which are all @blackat[school name] — call out overt racism like the use of slurs and stereotypes, microagressions like comments about hair and finances, and systemic discrimination that has contributed to cultures that have left Black students feeling less than and unable to speak up.
Lifting the lid: Current students and alumni from some of the county’s most prestigious private schools, including Chapin (pictured) are speaking out about their experiences with racism
Looking back: Former students at The Chapin School in New York City — where tuition is $51,950/year — opened up about their experiences
CHAPIN SCHOOL, NEW YORK CITY
The @blackatchapin was launched less than two weeks ago, but already has 70 posts.
The all-girls Chapin School — which has an annual tuition of $51,950 for the 2019-2020 school year — is located on New York City’s Upper East Side.
Among its former students are First Daughters Ivanka Trump (who transferred to Choate at age 15), Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Anna Roosevelt Halsted, and Tricia Nixon Cox; former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; actress Stockard Channing; Lee Radziwill; Lilly Pulitzer; Amanda Hearst; and Vera Wang.
But for many Black students, their time at the school was marred by racism.
‘In 4th or 5th grade (when we learned about slavery), our teachers made us play a game in which you played as a slave on a plantation and the goal was to escape,’ wrote one.
‘There were even parts where if you clicked on something and made a wrong decision, a message would pop up saying something like, “Oh no, the master caught you and you got whipped/shot.”‘
Another said that when she started dating a private school boy, her friends were ‘surprised’ he’d be interested in a Black girl, and speculated that he was using her.
Racism: Many students recalled instances of microagressions, racist comments, and teachers who singled them out
‘In 6th grade I told my history teacher about how my mom would drive me to horseback riding lessons in our gray pickup truck,’ said Sofia, who graduated in 2017. ‘She responded, “I didn’t know Black people drove pickup trucks!”‘
Another student said that a history teacher would constantly mix her up with the other Black girl in the class, while one more recalled an AP teacher who gave her a failing grade on a test because ‘my handwriting seemed aggressive and as though “I was daring her to read it.”‘
A Class of 2016 alum said a white classmate ‘repeatedly told me and several other black students that she was “blacker than us” because her dad was a white South African.
‘Joke or not, I never thought it was funny because her family’s wealth and status came from the violent colonization and continued exploitation of Black South Africans under apartheid.’
The Chapin school has responded to the accusations on its own official Instagram account, with Head of School Patricia T. Hayot writing: ‘Bravely and passionately, our Black students and alums have expressed anguish, frustrations and hopes based on their experiences at Chapin.
She went on: ‘Our faculty, administration and staff have engaged in honest and productive discussions in meetings with our students and alums, including Chapin for Change.
‘Our immediate commitments will provide more role models by expanding the diversity of faculty and staff; will enrich the curriculum with greater recognition of Black individuals; and will establish additional programs in diversity and inclusion. We are committed to racial equality and lasting change at Chapin.’
Disgusting: Students at Dalton in NYC recalled being called ‘dirty’ and ‘ugly’
THE DALTON SCHOOL, NEW YORK CITY
The Dalton School, also on NYC’s Upper East Side with a $54,180 tuition for the coming school year, has a similar account dedicated to stories of Black students and alum.
One said other students said to her face that ‘Black women are so ugly,’ while another recalled being called ‘disgusting’ and ‘dirty’ when she said she only washed her hair once a week — by a white student who was clearly ignorant to the fact that Black hair is different from most white hair and requires different hair.
‘When peer leadership applications came out, we heard so many white applicants say they were “threatened” by how many POC were applying since “there was no way they wouldn’t get it,’ wrote one student.
Several reflected on the particular trauma of dating at the private school, with one saying that a white classmate who had hooked up with two black classmates was said to have ‘jungle fever.’
‘One of my white teammates once told me that he was thinking about asking a Black girl in our class to prom, but laughed and said his grandma wouldn’t like the photos so he couldn’t,’ wrote another.
Not so much romance: Several faced racism when it came to dating, with white students refusing to go out with Black students or treating them differently
The school has issued its own response, with Head of School Jim Best writing: ‘To be complacent in the face of injustice is to be complicit.’
Speaking to the students on the @blackatdalton account, they went on: ‘We heard you. And while listening is vital, it’s also insufficient. We’ll continue to have real and actionable conversations about the experiences of Black people and other people of color at Dalton.
‘This moment, this movement, is about everyone at Dalton raising their consciousness, raising their game, and creating an anti-racist community that works for all of us.’
He promised that the school with share more information of its ‘continued, concrete actions to bring about deep, intentional, structural, and cultural change’ this summer.
‘We’re deeply sorry for the pain, trauma, and suffering we’ve caused,’ he wrote.
Famous alumni of The Dalton School include Anderson Cooper, Claire Danes, Chevy Chase, Jennifer Grey, Christian Slater, Dylan Lauren, and Tracee Ellis Ross.
Opening up: The account for Black students at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire has nearly 200 posts so far about the $57,563-per-year boarding school
PHILLIPS EXETER ACADEMY, NEW HAMPSHIRE
The account for Black students at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire has nearly 200 posts so far about the $57,563-per-year boarding school.
They have shared stories about students and teachers who made racist remarks.
One recalled crying in her room one day when a dorm faculty member burst in and said she ‘was acting animalistic and threatened to call the police.
Another remembered a girl saying she ‘didn’t feel comfortable on the track team because there were so many Black kids. She said it was “unfair to white students since they aren’t genetically as naturally athletic or as fast as the black people are.’
‘As a Black woman, Exeter makes me think I feel hideous,’ wrote another. ‘My earliest experiences were being told there was no way anyone would find me attractive because I was Black.’
One said that upon moving it, there was a swastika on their dorm room door — and nothing was done when they complained.
The next year, though, when a Jewish girl moved into the same dorm room, the Black student was interrogated about the mark.
Yet another said that his crush’s parents heard a rumor that they had gone out and ‘screamed at her for hours for “chasing after Black men.”‘
Stories: Students recalled classmates making remarks about the attractiveness and athletic ability of Black people, as well as teachers targeting Black students
On Instagram Exeter’s director of equity and inclusion Stephanie Bramlett wrote that she wants to ‘acknowledge the anguish, frustrated, and painful stories that Black students and alums have shared.’
‘While some of the details are new, the stories reflect decades of anti-Black racism at the Academy. We will be using these testimonies, along with dozens of other letters and expressions of hurt, as we work to engage the entire community in making an action plan for a better, more inclusive Exeter.’
She went on to say that faculty are currently redesigning classes to center the voices of people of color, honor different cultural backgrounds, and ‘name systemic racism and its symptoms as they manifest’.
She said there will also be antiracism training for faculty through the summer and they will create ‘a better process for hearing and responding to community feedback.’
Notable alumni of Exeter include US President Franklin Pierce, Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Yang, and Roxane Gay.
Wealth: Phillips Academy Andover in Andover, Massachusetts — which has a $59,850 boarding tuition — has similar stories on the Black at Andover account
Terrible: One student was told they’d only been admitted to a top school because they were Black, despite many achievements
PHILLIPS ACADEMY ANDOVER, MASSACHUSETTS
Phillips Academy Andover in Andover, Massachusetts — which has a $59,850 boarding tuition for the coming school year — has similar stories on the Black at Andover account.
‘A white guy asked me if I “ever had to fight for my life for the last piece of chicken.” He had a Black roommate. This was fall of 2006,’ wrote one.
One said that when she admired a classmate’s leggings and asked where they were from, the classmate merely replied that they were ‘expensive,’ implying that the Black student couldn’t afford them.
Yet another student was called ‘disgusting’ for how often she washed her hair, while one said a teacher was in tears because other faculty members ‘made fun of his skin color.’
One particular high achiever said that at their time at the school, they were ‘president of my cluster, a team captain, playwright and director, pace senior, and averaged honors GPA’ but was ‘told I only got into my chosen school because I was Black.’
The academy has only released a short statement on Instagram, writing: ‘Dear Black@Andover, we hear you and value your voices…’
The elite New England prep school has a long list of famous alumni including former President George H.W. Bush, former President George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Humphrey Bogart, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Morse code inventor Samuel Morse, and Olivia Wilde.
One more: A joint account documenting Black experiences at the all-girls Greenwich Academy and all-boys Brunswick School is the newest of the bunch
GREENWICH ACADEMY AND BRUNSWICK SCHOOL, CONNECTICUT
A joint account documenting Black experiences at the all-girls Greenwich Academy and all-boys Brunswick School is the newest of the bunch but is quickly amassing stories and followers.
‘Growing up in a school that worshipped whiteness made me ashamed of who I was,’ wrote one.
Another recalled a student referring to him as ‘colored’ and a teacher within earshot doing nothing, while one more said a fellow student spit on him, used a slur, and banged his head on a locker — and when he told a teacher, he was ‘silenced.’
Another student who has also heard the n-word tossed around said that they’d like to ‘educate’ the people using that word — but ‘I feel as though I’m not allowed to do so.’
One more said he was unfairly targeted by a teacher who couldn’t even tell him apart from another Black student in the grade.
Greenwich Academy, in Connecticut, has a range of tuitions based on age group, with the highest at $45,680 per year, while Brunswick School has a tuition range of $40,000 for preschool and $46,200 for high school.
One student was called ‘colored,’ another was spit on, and yet another said that despite hearing the n-word tossed around by classmates, they felt they couldn’t speak up
On June 20, students at Greenwich Academy held a Black Lives matter rally attended by more than 400 students, alumnae, parents, past parents, faculty, staff, and trustees.
On June 12, the Trustees of Greenwich Academy, released a statement on the school’s ‘commitment to anti-racism’
‘The entire school community has been activated and engaged in this movement; we see clear opportunities to implement changes that will not only improve the experiences of our Black students but also position all GA students to engage intentionally, empathetically, and effectively across all communities,’ they wrote.
While they haven’t publicly addressed the critical Instagram account, they said that their ‘goal is and will always be to improve the educational experiences of our students’.
Greenwich alumni include Jane Fonda, Ethel Kennedy, and Allison Williams, while Brunswick alumni include Peter Fonda and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
Telling all: The all-girls Brearley School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side has its own stories from alumni
A student said she’d been made to play a slave in a history lesson, while another was told she was so ‘dark’ because she was unclean
BREARLEY SCHOOL, NEW YORK CITY
Finally, the all-girls Brearley School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side — where tuition is $51,790 — has graduated famous alumni including Kyra Sedgwick, Alexandra Daddario, and Caroline Kennedy.
But there, too, there are stories.
One recalled a class in fifth grade in which she had to pretend to be a slave for a history lesson — and a white student was chosen to be her ‘master.’
Another said that a white student told her she was so ‘dark’ because she was unclean, while a third was told as a small child that another student wouldn’t play with her because she was brown.
One story claimed that the institution’s first and only Black head of the school was forced to resign because she wasn’t ‘likeable.’
In a statement to PageSix, Head of School Jane Foley Fried said that administrators are reading and listening to all the comments.
‘We greatly respect and appreciate the courage and candor of our Black alumnae and students who are sharing their experiences. The racist behavior they have described is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in any part of our community,’ she said.
‘We are deeply sorry for the pain they have experienced at Brearley. We are already engaged in conversations with the community about what we will do differently beginning this summer.’