Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Prudence Crandall, Education, and Integration

Honoring Prudence Crandall

Tammy LaGorce's piece in today's New York Times, "Honoring a Teacher Who Fought for Equality," not only offers a profile of Prudence Crandall, it also highlights the museum dedicated to her and her work, the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury, Connecticut.

Prudence Crandall
Born in 1803, Crandall opened the Canterbury Female Boarding School in 1831. But, as LaGorce notes, rather than teaching her young pupils "traditionally female skills like needlework, Crandall taught chemistry, geography and, generally, the kinds of rigorous coursework presented at mid-19th century boys’ schools."

In the fall of 1832, Crandall integrated her school, enrolling Sarah Harris, an African American girl, as a student. The parents of her other pupils reacted with hostility, but rather than expelling Harris, Crandall decided instead to open a school for African American girls. Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color opened in 1833 with some twenty students from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia in addition to students, like Harris, from the state of Connecticut. 

The resulting furor led to the passage of the state's so-called Black Law, which made it illegal to teach students of color from outside the state. Crandall's commitment to integration, despite arrest, legal actions, and persecution, led to a series of trials. Although a decision against Crandall and her school was eventually reversed, Crandall's school was repeatedly vandalized. In 1834, Crandall closed it permanently.

There is an excellent article on Crandall at the National Women's History Museum website; to access that essay, click here.

A number of letters and documents related to Crandall and her school are available at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition; to access them, click here.

An advertisement announcing Crandall's School for African American Girls