Previous Site of the Month: May 2012
Prudence Crandall House
1 South Canterbury Road (Junction of Routes 14 & 169), Canterbury, CT 06331
In April 1833 thirty year old Prudence Crandall opened a private academy to provide higher education to young African-American women, the first in New England. The response by fellow residents of Canterbury was explosive and the students who came from as far away as Philadelphia, New York and Providence experienced racial prejudice and harassment. After the building where the students lived and studied was attacked by a mob in the middle of the night, Miss Crandall closed the school in September 1834. Today it is open to the public as the Prudence Crandall Museum to commemorate a courageous woman and the brave students who endured much "to get a little more learning." (Visit www.cultureandtourism.org and follow the museum links for hours and directions.)
Prudence Crandall was teaching in the nearby town of Plainville when she was asked by prominent citizens in Canterbury to start an academy so that their daughters could receive higher education. With financial assistance, Miss Crandall opened the Canterbury Female Boarding School in November 1831 with herself and her younger sister as teachers. In the fall of 1832 Sarah Harris, a young African America woman whose family had recently moved to Canterbury, asked to join the classes. When protesting parents withdrew their children, Miss Crandall announced that starting April 1, 1833 the school would only accept "young ladies and misses of color."
Miss Crandall was not daunted by strong public opposition, not even when the state legislature passed the so-called "Black Law’ which declared the academy illegal. After Miss Crandall spent a night in jail and endured court trials, the Supreme Court of Errors dismissed the case on a technicality. Frustrated, a mob attacked the school building and broke the windows on the first floor. Concerned for the personal safety of the students, Miss Crandall reluctantly closed the school and sold the building.
Before her death in 1890, the State of Connecticut awarded Prudence Crandall, then living in Kansas, an annuity as reparation for her treatment under the Black Law.
Prudence Crandall was designated State Heroine in 1995. A statute of her and one of her students was placed in the State Capitol in 2008.
For more information see:
To All on Equal Terms: The Life and Legacy of Prudence Crandall, Diana McCain (2004)
Prudence Crandall: A Biography, Marvis Welch (1983)
Forbidden Schoolhouse, Suzanne Jurmain (2005