New Jersey school to be named after civil rights icons Charles and Anna Booker who fought segregation

PLAINFIELD, New Jersey (WABC) -- A district in New Jersey will name a school currently under construction after two civil rights icons who won a key case against segregation in the state.

The Plainfield Board of Education voted to approve the name for the new school being built on the site of the former Woodland School, The Charles and Anna Booker School.

"This is amazing," 95-year-old Anna Booker said. "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."

The Bookers won Charles B. Booker v. Board of Education of Plainfield in 1965 against segregation in Plainfield Public Schools.

Charles Booker was an Army veteran and worked for the Veterans Affairs Department as well as for Housing and Urban Development. Anna Booker was one of the first African American teachers hired in Metuchen, and she was later hired by Plainfield and retired after 20 years of service in the district.

"It's exciting, and I think (we are feeling) all the positive emotions you can imagine," 97-year-old Charles Booker said. "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."

They have been married 71 years, but things began when Charles was in sixth grade and Anna not far behind.

Charles went on the serve in WWII, writing letters to Anna, and when they came back together, they started volunteering and serving to make Plainfield better for all.

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They brought the suit against the Plainfield Board of Education after numerous attempts failed to correct the imbalance in education for African American students in Plainfield.

Anna Booker said the books were outdated, the education was inferior, and the children were feeling neglected by their schools.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 Carter, the Bookers sued and won.

The case was decided on June 28, 1965, and changed how the students were placed in schools and how funding was allocated.

It also changed how the boards were chosen.

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 later when the students and the Plainfield community can come together to honor the Bookers in a historic event.

Dr. Mitchell congratulated the Board for its decision.

"I am very proud of the Plainfield Board of Education for voting to name our new school after Plainfield's Hidden Figures Charles and Anna Booker," she said. "It is extremely important that a school's name is reflective of its community."

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"The Bookers," as they are affectionately known in Plainfield, have volunteered and served the city all their lives in many capacities, on approximately 10 boards that include the Board of Adjustment, Housing Board, the Shut-ins, School Board and more.

The naming of the school was made by a 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, as well as the naming of the Hub Stine Track to the Milt Campbell Track.

Milton Gray Campbell, known as "Milt" Campbell (1933-2012) was born and raised in Plainfield and became the first African American athlete to win the gold medal in the decathlon at the Summer Olympic Games, in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956.

As a student at Plainfield High School, Campbell qualified for the Olympic team in the decathlon, winning a Silver Medal in 1952. He set records in the high and low hurdles and in the high jump in the State of New Jersey.

He was inducted into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Hall of Fame in 1997.

"This is a monumental moment for the Plainfield Board of Education," Board member and former president Richard Wyatt said. "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."

The Bookers live in Plainfield and have a daughter, Beverly Sheldon Booker, who is a training manager at the medical research laboratories at Columbia University, and a son, Charles B. Booker, who until recently was an OSHA officer in the construction industry.

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