Children from Harlem visit Vermont in 1946, in forerunner of ‘Fresh Air Kids’ program

Digital Vermont photos of 1946 arrival of children from Harlem at Burlington train station. The children spent a summer vacation with families from Newport to Wilmington and many communities in between.

A Scottish-born pastor brought hundreds of Black children from Harlem to visit Vermont in 1946 with the help of legendary civil rights leader Adam Clayton Powell.

The program was an apparent forerunner of the “Fresh Air Kids” approach that brings urban children to spend a summer vacation in the homes of rural Americans.

The Vermont-Harlme project was the brainchild of Alvah “Ritchie” Low was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on April 18, 1899. He moved to Canada with his family at the age of 8. He attended the Missionary Institute at Nyack, New York and then moved to Vermont to take up his first pastorate at Montgomery Center in 1920. He then moved to Colchester and later Johnson where he started very successful social involvement programs. Here he started the Vermont-Harlem Project and wrote the book “The Vermont Plan for Racial Tolerance.”

In 1943, Low visited the parish of Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, who was the pastor of 10,000 people in Harlem. During that visit he proposed to invite 75 African-Americans to Vermont. Low saw the children as the future of race relations and this project was aimed at changing the mindset of race relations from the bottom up.

Low died of cancer not long after the beginning of his project, on Christmas Eve of 1949. – Contents sourced from Digital Vermont by the Vermont Historical Society.

Categories: History

5 replies »

  1. My folks had fresh air kids back in the 1960s for four years 👍👍🇺🇸🗽🇺🇸
    I had fun with them! It was all good 👍 for the most part!!

  2. My mother-in-law hosted a beautiful little girl named Trina from NYC city for more years than I can count. So sad we lost track of her after she out grew the program. We still remember those summer visits and the fun times

  3. My parents took fresh air kids into our home of 9 of us kids too. I still remember at least 1 of them. It must have been in 1951-on.

  4. My parents did too – before I was born. South Albany, Vermont. Two lovely girls. We have pictures.

  5. Beautiful story, but I wonder if this was really a “forerunner” of the Fresh Air programs. I came across a 1927 story in the Vergennes paper that is subtitled “Fresh Air Children Will Be Here Next Friday,” referring to children coming from the “tenement districts of New York.” (7/21/1927, Enterprise Vermonter)