"...One thing that personally helped me was that even though we were in a pretty segregated situation in Princeton, at the time, our conduct and behavior was always being monitored. By having a black YW and YMCA, you had mature adults who would pull you aside when you did something wrong. You got that from the school from eight to three and when you went into the recreational play after school, you got that same kind of guidance..." - Clyde (Buster) Thomas I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton by Kathryn Watterson

Integration in princeton

Although Princeton High School became integrated in 1916, the elementary school wasn’t integrated until 1947, when New Jersey amended its state constitution to prohibit racial discrimination or segregation in the state military or public schools. That same year, the National YWCA was urging local associations to integrate and study interracial practices, and by March of 1948, the Witherspoon YWCA was brought into the main YWCA Princeton.

While this was a significant step in the right direction, there was still discrimination, inequity, and resistance for years to come. I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton by Kathryn Watterson chronicles the lived experiences of generations of Princetonians who grew up in the Witherspoon Jackson community. One chapter (a portion of which is quoted at the top of the page), conveys that the integration of the YW/YM and the public schools meant that Black children in Princeton actually had less access to teachers and mentors who looked like them. Ironically, the result was that many Black children became aware of discrimination and racism for the first time.

Another Decade, Another War

YWCA lounge at Fort Dix

As an organization that was established largely as a byproduct of war, YWCA Princeton and the Witherspoon YWCA rose to the occasion to support the local community and the national troops during World War II. YWCA Princeton sponsored monthly trips for women and girls to visit Fort Dix, and regularly collaborated with the Red Cross. Through the World YWCA Emergency Fund, they sent clothing and supplies to overseas areas that were devastated by the war.

The office on Nassau Street also became a shared space and a vibrant community center for up to 20 other civic organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, League of Women Voters, the Service League, and the 4-H Club.