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NHD- Breaking Barriers: The Prudence Crandall Story


During a time of segregation in the United States, many different minorities, especially those of the African American race, were not allowed the same opportunities as Caucasians African Americans were burned alive, lynched, shot, raped, and beaten to death, even in places of work and education, just because of the color of their skin

Prejudice developed and African American were not viewed as “citizens” Even though African Americans, in general, received the bulk of injustice in the early 1800s, education for any female was one of the biggest controversies during this time Why should the gender of an individual contradict their right to an education? Why should the race of an individual contradict one’s right to an education? The American Women, Civil Rights Activist, and State Heroine of Connecticut, Prudence Crandall, was more than dedicated to getting plausible answers to these questions, while the answers she received were not to her liking, it only encouraged her to put an end to such discrimination Prudence Crandall broke discriminatory barriers by creating a school for girls of color because she wanted to prove that African-American girls deserved the same right to education as Caucasian girls; in doing so, Prudence Crandall worked against the viewpoints of the public and inspired others to do the same With this, Crandall would become a symbol in the cause of African-American education and abolitionism

Prudence Crandall was born on September 3, 1803 in Hopkinton, Rhode Island She was born into a Quaker family with three siblings; an older brother, Hezekiah Crandall, a younger brother,Reuben Crandall, and a younger sister, Almira Crandall, and her family moved to Connecticut when she was 17 years old Though Crandall was born into a family devoted to religious approaches and peaceful principles, she was far from silent In fact, Crandall’s lifestyle growing up encouraged her to provide a voice for the speechless and fight for the defenseless After attending a boarding school in Providence, R

I herself where she learned mathematics and Latin along with a variety of sciences, Prudence Crandall purchased her very own school in 1831 with the advice of American journalist William Lloyd Garrison It was referred to as the Canterbury Female Boarding School, where she ignored the controversy of her time and taught the many things she’s learned to young girls Prudence Crandall lost her battles on January 28, 1890 when she became ill and was laid to rest at Elk Falls cemetery in Elk Falls, Kansas In 1832, Prudence Crandall admitted a 17 year old student by the name of Sarah Harris, the daughter of an African American farmer, into her school

Like Crandall, Sarah wanted to become a teacher and educate other African American children of the community While the Caucasian students attending school with Sarah seemed to have no problem with her learning aside them, their parents, along with the rest of the community, were angered by Crandall’s decision As a result, the angered community insisted that Sarah immediately be removed from the school Crandall’s refusal to remove Sarah Harris from her school prompted the parents of the Caucasian girls to withdraw their students instead Despite this action and the anger presented by the community, Prudence Crandall still did not release Sarah Harris from her boarding school

Instead, Prudence Crandall hoped to re-open the school for the education of African American females only When news got out, a town meeting was set to prevent the school from opening Unsuccessful, the school prevailed and even attracted young African American women from different areas, such as Boston and Philadelphia However, the townsfolk did everything they could to stop the school from continuing Storekeepers refused to sell food or supplies to Crandall, doctors denied tending to Crandall’s sick students, and pharmacists refused to give out medicine to those sick students as well

On top of that, the town’s church wouldn’t allow Crandall’s students into their doors, crowds smashed the school’s windows, and also threw manure into the school’s water well Though Prudence Crandall continued to be harassed, her dedication to her school and her students kept her going With this, the General Assembly enacted the “Black Law,” making it illegal for out-of-state African American students to attend a Connecticut school without local permission Around the same time Andrew Judson, a legislator, brought about a bill forbidding anyone from setting up a school for the instruction of “colored persons” He stated "Mr

May, we are not merely opposed to the establishment of that school in Canterbury: we mean there shall not be such a school set up anywhere in our State The colored people can never rise from their menial condition in our country; they ought not to be permitted to rise here They are an inferior race of beings, and never call or ought to be recognized as the equals of the whites" On June 27, 1833, a sheriff entered Prudence’s residence and arrested her, she was placed in a cell recently occupied by a man who was executed for the murder of his wife During the first of three trials, regarding Crandall and her operation of the African American school, her lawyers argued that while she was operating a school for out-of-state students, the Black Law was "unconstitutional," and the first trial ended in a jury that could not come to a verdict

The jury at Prudence Crandall's second trial however found her guilty when the judge declared the Black Law indeed "constitutional" as he stated "To my mind, it would be a perversion of terms, and the well-known rule of construction to say that slaves, free blacks or Indians, were citizens within the meaning of the term, as used in the Constitution God forbid that I should add to the degradation of this race of man; but I am bound by my duty, to say they are not citizens" However, a third trial reversed the guilty verdict because there was not enough information for a conviction Though Prudence Crandall prevailed through all of the legal trouble regarding her school, the town still refused to let Crandall teach as she wished On September 9, 1834, an angry mob attacked, ransacked, and tried to set fire to Crandall’s school while she and her students were still inside

Fearing for the safety of her students, Crandall permanently shut down her school Though Crandall’s school came to an end, her determination did not After the closing of her school, Prudence Crandall participated in women’s rights activities and made speeches on tolerance as well as speeches regarding the suffrage movement occuring during her time Not too long after the closing of Crandall’s school, a new anti-slavery movement was set into motion in Connecticut Many members that contributed to the wrongdoing Crandall and her students endured, began to acquire a change of heart, such as that of Phillip Pearl, the chairman of the committee that passed the Black Law

He stated "I could weep the tears of blood for the part I took in the matter–I now regard that law as utterly abominable" In 1838, the Black Law of Connecticut was revoked However, the issue on whether or not African Americans were considered citizens was avoided until the Dred Scott decision of 1857 While Crandall’s actions allowed her community to have a change of heart, her influence did not end there She inspired many other women rights movements as well as African Americans, especially regarding their access to education

In 1954 the decision in Brown v the Board of Education of Topeka resolved the unconstitutionality of “separate but equal” education for white and African American students, referencing Prudence Crandall’s struggle In 1995, Crandall was named Connecticut’s official ‘State Heroine’ by the Connecticut General Assembly The school in which Crandall opened is now used as a museum as part of Connecticut’s Cultural Treasures where many people can enter and learn about her involvement in the abolitionist movement Through Prudence Crandall chose to no longer continue teaching at her school, she still became an important part of African American and women’s history

Crandall broke discriminatory barriers denying females and African Americans their education; however, she made the most difference in her fight for misses of color Crandall also broke controversial barriers in her community and political barriers of her time She is regarded as a heroine and her decision to admit an African American girl into her classroom allowed her to have had the first integrated classroom in the United States Crandall did not let the early challenges she faced stop her from doing what she thought was right Prudence Crandall's actions set forth many other significant historical motions regarding women's rights and African American rights

She was an individual who believed that African American women should receive the same educational rights as Caucasian women and acted on that matter

Source: Youtube

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