Prudence Crandall Museum
The Museum, located at the Junction of State Scenic Routes 14 & 169 in Canterbury, Connecticut includes three period rooms, changing exhibits on a variety of themes, a small research library available by appointment for in-house study, and a museum gift shop. The museum's first floor is handicapped accessible.
Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) at the request of the community, opened an academy on the Canterbury Green in January of 1832 to educate the daughters of wealthy local families. The school was extremely successful until the following fall when she admitted Sarah Harris, a 20-year old black woman.
Sarah Harris (1812-1878) had attended the district schools in Norwich, Connecticut, and hoped to become a teacher herself with the help of the education the academy could provide. Sarah's admittance to the academy led parents to withdraw their daughters. Losing support from the white community, Prudence began making appropriate contacts throughout New England's free black communities to attract young black women as students. Eventually more than twenty young black women arrived, some coming from as far away as Boston, New York City and Philadelphia. By April 1, 1833 announcements were placed in local newspapers announcing the academy's reopening as a school for the education of "young ladies and little misses of color."
The state of Connecticut responded by passing the "Black Law" which made it illegal for Crandall to operate her school. (The Black Law was repealed in 1838.) Crandall was arrested, spent one night in jail, and faced three court trials while her students courageously faced more than a year of increasing harassment. Though the final court case was dismissed in July of 1834 due to lack of sufficient evidence, a mob attack on the academy on the evening of September 9, 1834 forced Crandall to close the academy. Though the academy was open for less than two years, the events which took place there and the courage shown by teacher and students stand without equal in the annals of Connecticut history.
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