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Edouard E. Plummer Guides Young Scholars in Harlem Through Wadleigh Scholars Program for over 50 Years

Edouard E. Plummer (CreditDavid Gonzalez/The New York Times)

Edouard E. Plummer works out of a room inside a Harlem public school that would be spacious — if it were a storage closet. Still, he has found a way to pack its shelves and cover its walls with a growing testament to a half-century of achievements that rival those of headmasters at the swankiest prep schools.

He would know; he’s friends with a lot of them. Since 1964, he has taken promising poor and minority children and, in one intense year, given them the academic and social tools to get into — and thrive at — the nation’s leading schools and beyond.

“This one went to Lawrenceville, then Yale,” Mr. Plummer said, pointing a worn yardstick to old news clippings and fliers on the wall. “This one, Peddie. Hotchkiss, St. Paul’s. This one went to Harvard undergrad and Harvard Law. This one’s a doctor. He ran for Congress.”

His smile betrayed his satisfaction. His words, however, underscored that despite getting more than 500 young people into 108 different boarding and preparatory schools though the Wadleigh Scholars Program, more needed to be done.

When he first set out on his mission, memories of segregation were fresh in his mind. He had attended West Virginia State University and, in 1949, applied to the Foreign Service. Despite having done well in history, German and biology, he was rejected.  “They said, ‘Thank you, but we have nothing to offer you,’ ” he recalled. “You know why they did that. It was the color of my skin.”

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