Bayard Rustin Educational Complex

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Coordinates: 40°44′36″N 74°00′09″W / 40.74333°N 74.00250°W / 40.74333; -74.00250

Bayard Rustin Educational Complex
Bayard Rustin Educational Complex 18th Street from east.jpg
351 West 18th Street

United States

The Bayard Rustin Educational Complex – also known as the Humanities Educational Complex – at West 18th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, is a "vertical campus" of the New York City Department of Education which contains a number of small public schools, most of them high schools — grades 9 through 12 – along with one combined middle and high school – grades 6 through 12.

The building formerly housed Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities (M440), a comprehensive school which graduated its last class in the 2011-2012 school year.


The building – which is actually two buildings, one on 18th Street and the other on 19th Street, connected in the middle – was constructed in 1930 as Textile High School, a vocational high school for the textile trades, complete with a textile mill in the basement; the school yearbook was titled The Loom. It was later renamed Straubenmuller Textile High School after the vocational education pioneer Gustave Straubenmuller, then renamed Charles Evans Hughes High School after Governor of New York and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes.

In 1952, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, which investigated Communist influence in schools, accused two-thirds of New York City teachers of being "card-carrying Communists." Irving Adler, Mathematics Department chair at Straubenmuller and executive member of the Teachers Union, was subpoenaed by the subcommittee but refused to cooperate, invoking his rights under the Fifth Amendment. He was fired. Adler later admitted being a member of the Communist Party USA.[1]

In the wake of disciplinary problems so bad that teachers picketed the school, it was shut down in 1981, and reopened in 1983 as the High School for the Humanities with a revamped curriculum focusing on English and the humanities. It was later renamed the Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities after civil rights activist Bayard Rustin.[2]

Some of the murals in the auditorium
A detail from one of the stained glass windows in the lobby
The building in 1931 when it was Textile High School
The entrance to the building, showing the signs for the six schools located there

In January 2009, following publicized difficulties, including safety issues, a Regents Test scandal – in which the school's administration falsified test scores to push up the school's average – and a continuing low graduation rate, the Department of Education announced that the school would not accept any ninth-graders in the fall of 2009, and that it would close after its last students graduate in 2012.[3][4][5][6]


By 2005, the school building had already begun to host other, smaller public school entities in addition to the comprehensive high school. In the 2012-2013 school year, there were six schools in the facility:[7][8]

With the exception of Quest to Learn (Q2L), all of the schools are high schools. Q2L, which moved into the building just before the 2010-2011 school year, currently (as of October 2014) has six grades, 6 through 11, and will add a new grade each year until it is a full middle and high school in September 2015.

Physical facilities[edit]

The original upper floors were well-appointed, with marble-lined hallways, stained glass windows, and wood-paneled offices. In 1934–35, the Work Projects Administration's Federal Arts Project decorated the schools with murals, some created by artist Jacques Van Aalten;[9][10] but muralist Jean Charlot was also called in to oversee the work already in progress of art students – including Abraham Lishinsky – titled The Art Contribution to Civilization of All Nations and Countries. He himself painted a central niche, which he named Head, Crowned with Laurels; this latter was overpainted after the completion of the mural, and Charlot listed the mural as "destroyed" in catalogs of his work. It was restored by the Adopt-A-Mural Program, with mural restoration completed in 1995.[11] It is now an interior architectural landmark. In 1999 a theatrical lighting system and rigging renovation for the school auditorium was completed with the help of PENCIL, Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning.[12]

The building also features a swimming pool, which was expected to be refurbished and returned to service as of the 2010–2011 academic year,[13] but did not return to service until the 2012-13 school year. The pool is now being used by the schools for recreation as well as a life guard training program.

Notable alumni of the comprehensive high school[edit]


  1. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph "When Suspicion of Teachers Ran Unchecked" The New York Times (June 15, 2009)
  2. ^ Pollak, Michael (2004-04-11). "F.Y.I." New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
  3. ^ Cramer, Philissa. "DOE: Bayard Rustin, a large Chelsea high school, to close" Gotham schools (January 8, 2009)
  4. ^ Lombardi, Chris "Teacher turmoil, failing grades raise questions at Bayard Rustin" Chelsea Now (March 14–20, 2008)
  5. ^ School review at
  6. ^ Yoav Gonen, New York Post "'Cheater' principal cleared after probe" November 3, 2010
  7. ^ Vacca, Diane "A War is Raging Over Resources" Chelsea Now (March 11, 2010)
  8. ^ "Find a School: Zip Code 10011"[dead link] on the New York City Department of Education website
  9. ^ Murals for Straubenmuller Textile High School in NYC
  10. ^ Park, Marlene. "City and Country in the 1930s: A Study of New Deal Murals in New York". Art Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Autumn, 1979), pp. 37-47.
  11. ^ "The Jean Charlot Collection, University of Hawai'i at Manoa Libraries. "Murals and Sculptures by Jean Charlot"". Archived from the original on 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2009-12-12.
  12. ^ "Selected Lighting System Design Projects"
  13. ^ Vacca, Diane "Quest to Learn’s move greeted with skepticism by Bayard Rustin" Chelsea Now (March 28, 2010)
  14. ^ N.Y. Times biography of Carradine
  15. ^ "Cicely Tyson - Career Began In Modeling"

External links[edit]