Stan Shaw and Michael Wenger Oral History
Scope and Contents
Stan Shaw and Michael Wenger discuss their experience initiating, coordinating, and participating in the Virginia Student Help Project and the Jamaica Student Help Project of Queens College in the early to mid-1960s. The Virginia Student Help Project was an intensive education effort during the summer of 1963 in Prince Edward County, Virginia where public schools were closed for five years in massive resistance to integration. The Jamaica Student Help Project took place closer to home. Starting in schools near campus, it eventually engaged 500 Queens College student volunteers in tutoring more than one thousand educationally challenged, under-resourced students across New York City. Shaw and Wenger discuss the support they received from faculty, what it was like to live in the black community in Prince Edward County, and life-long skills and lessons they gained from their experience. They also describe attending the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington DC in August of 1963.
- Shaw, Stanley (Interviewee, Person)
This oral history is open for research. Media files and transcript can be viewed and/or requested through the Queens Memory Project on Aviary: https://queenslibrary.aviaryplatform.com/r/np1wd3qh3j. For help using the site, contact QC.Archives@qc.cuny.edu.
Conditions Governing Use
Interview shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Users are free to share or adapt the material for non-commercial purposes, as long as they meet the terms of the license. See license details at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.
Michael Wenger was born to Emanuel and Rose Wenger on March 4, 1942 in Brooklyn, New York. He studied at Queens College, City University of New York and received his B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Education in 1965. At Queens College, Wenger served as the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) campus chapter president circa 1963-1964 and as chairman of the Student Help Project during the 1964 calendar year. Wenger tutored under-served school children in South Jamaica, Queens from 1962-1963. In 1963, he and a group of 16 Queens College students traveled to Prince Edward County, Virginia to tutor black students who had been denied a public education since 1959 when the county closed its public schools rather than comply with court-mandated integration.
When Wenger returned from Prince Edward County, Virginia, he was awarded, along with Stan Shaw (a fellow student participant in the Virginia Student Help Project), the B’nai B’rith Human Relations Award on April 23, 1964. Wenger was involved in several other activist activities, including the organization of Freedom Week, an event sponsored by C.O.R.E. in 1964.
After his graduation from Queens College in 1965, Wenger taught special education in New York from 1965-1967. In 1967, he moved to Berkeley, West Virginia where he became the director of the Community Education Project, an anti-poverty program. Over the next several years, Wenger worked for the state of West Virginia in various community action positions; including Director of Federal/State programs for Charleston, West Virginia, Chief of the Division of Community Development for the Office of the Governor of West Virginia, and Deputy Commissioner for Operations for the West Virginia Department of Welfare.
In 1981, Wenger moved to Maryland where he became the state’s Washington Representative for the Appalachian Regional Commission. At the same time, he wrote a biweekly column on race relations for the Prince George’s Journal. In September 1997, Wenger became Deputy Director of Outreach and Program Development for President Clinton’s Initiative on Race. In 1998, he began his affiliation with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C. Wenger is currently a Senior Fellow with the Center and serves as the Editorial Consultant to FOCUS magazine, the Center’s bi-monthly magazine. He is also an Adjunct Faculty Member of the Department of Sociology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., teaching courses on institutional racism.
Over the course of his career Wenger has written several publications, and frequently gives presentations that discuss the issue of race and race relations in the United States.
Stan Shaw was born on August 18, 1943 to Sue and Leonard Shaw in Utica, NY. He grew up in Cambria Heights, Queens, and studied at Queens College, City University of New York, where he received his B.A. in Sociology and Education in 1965. During the 1962-1963 school year, Shaw served as Chairman of the Queens College Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) ; he went on to serve as Chairman of the Queens College Student Help Project from January 1963 through January 1964.
The Student Help Project was established by Queens College CORE, the Queens College Chapter of the National Student Association (NSA), and Queens College education majors and professors. The Project comprised two initiatives: the provision of free tutoring services to schoolchildren in South Jamaica, Queens and in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Shaw was a founder of the Jamaica program and one of several coordinators of the Virginia project.
Prince Edward County, Virginia was a focal point in the fight for racial equality in education. In 1951, Barbara Johns, a black student in Prince Edward County, led her classmates in a strike for a better school. With the help of the NAACP, Johns and her classmates filed a desegregation lawsuit that became one of four cases that made up the historic Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education (1954). In 1959, Prince Edward County de-funded and closed their public schools rather than comply with court mandated integration. This development was part of Virginia’s policy of “Massive Resistance” to desegregation. The Prince Edward County public school system would not re-open until 1964.
During the spring of 1963, Shaw tutored students in South Jamaica, Queens; by the fall of 1963, over 220 Queens College students had volunteered in the program. During the summer of 1963, the Virginia Student Help Project, under the direction of faculty members Dr. Rachel Weddington and Dr. Sidney Simon, sent sixteen student tutors, including Shaw, to Farmville, the Prince Edward County seat. Stan Shaw and Michael Wenger were awarded the B’nai B’rith Human Relations Award in May 1964 for their work with the Student Help Project.
Shaw enjoyed a distinguished career in special education, serving as a researcher, professor, and policy advocate. He received an M.A. in Special Education from the University of Northern Colorado (1968) and an Ed.D. in Special Education and Disadvantaged Youth from the University of Oregon (1971). He is a Professor Emeritus of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut and a Senior Research Scholar and Associate Director at the Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability.
(1) Shaw began as Chairman of the Queens College Chapter of the NAACP, but decided to change the group’s affiliation to CORE part way through the year.
1 Digital Files ; Duration: 02:10:08
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to Queens College and Queens Public Library by Stanley Shaw, Michael Wenger, and Annie Tummino in July, 2020.
Single MP4 file totaling 4 GB and 2 hours and 10 minutes in duration.
Oral history conducted as part of the Queens Memory Project (http://queensmemory.org), a collaborative program of the Queens Public Library and Queens College to collect stories, images, and other evidence of life in the borough of Queens. This interview was specifically collected for the Queens College "Student Help Lived Experience" Project.
- Stan Shaw and Michael Wenger Oral History
- Victoria Fernandez
- December 2020
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script