Bordentown Historical Society to hold film showings

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Residents will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this Saturday to learn about one of Bordentown’s most historically significant places– the Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School.

The event, which the Bordentown Historical Society will serve as the host to, will be a general audience showing of the short documentary film, “Compromised by Conflict.” The documentary was created as a National History Day entry by several Cherry Hill students (then in tenth grade, now juniors in comparing colleges).

The event is scheduled on Feb. 16, with showings to take place at the Friends Meeting House on 302 Farnsworth Ave. at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Depending on demand, officials from the Bordentown Historical Society said that they may add additional showings of the film and are hopeful that other students will attend and engage with questions.

The showing of the film coincides with the historical society’s most recent exhibition series, “Untold Stories: Achieving Furthered Expectations,” which aims to explain Bordentown’s past with a series of showings and programs about two institutions: School No. 2, the local segregated elementary school, which operated from 1842-1948, and the Manual Training and Industrial School, the statewide boarding school located south of town, which operated from 1886-1955.

Touching on the topic of divisiveness in segregation throughout American history, the historical society said it felt a need to research and look into past educational institutions in the area that had an impact on this widespread practice at a local level.

The film being shown at Saturday’s event will explore the conflicts and compromises associated with the closing of the Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School, an African American institution.

“This is a great opportunity for people of all ages to visit the small exhibit setup at the Bordentown Friends Meetinghouse and share this experience,” said the Bordentown Historical Society’s President, Tim Rollender.

The film’s creators will be on hand to offer commentary as well.

As part of a school project, the film’s creators (Defne Alpdogan, Baheen Huzan, Melissa Kim, Aine Pipe and Waliya Rahman) said that when they were students searching for a topic for their film, they came across a picture of the institution at a yard sale. Although the school was located in the state, the students said that none of them had ever heard the name or learned about the school.

Intrigued by the picture, the creators said that further research on the school revealed that it was “a fusion of Washingtonian and Duboisian philosophies, one of the only ones of its kind; and a school that educated African Americans to become lawyers, doctors, and educators during the early 1900s.”

“However, the school was closed due to a terminating compromise that not only was a mystery by itself, but we had to dig through the archives to find any information on the compromise,” the film creators said in a statement. “With the limited resources that we had present, we made sure to tell the story of Bordentown.”

Inspired by a determination to uncover and reveal a unique moment in Bordentown’s history, people in attendance at the film showings can anticipate the event to not only honor their local past, but to reflect and honor the region’s work toward diversity and the nation’s as well.

“As young historians, we found that we must never turn our backs to the stories that define us,” the creators said. “To honor the alumni and the school, we decided that this piece of African American history should be acknowledged, as it pertained to not only New Jersey history, but also to national history.”