“I saw that the prejudice of whites against color was deep and inveterate. … I said in my heart, here are my convictions. What shall I do? Shall I be inactive and permit prejudice, the mother of all abominations, to remain undisturbed?”
Source: Letter to the Windham County Advertiser, May 7, 1833.
In 1831, Prudence Crandall founded a private school for girls in Canterbury, Conn., which initially served the daughters of the town’s wealthiest white families and quickly developed an outstanding academic reputation. But when Crandall admitted Sarah Harris, a young Black woman from a prominent and successful Connecticut family, all the white families withdrew their daughters. Likely inspired by the writings of the Black abolitionist Maria Stewart, within months Crandall re-opened her school, welcoming only Black girls.
To stop her, local opposition leader Andrew Judson and his allies persuaded the state legislature to enact the “Black Law,” which made it illegal for out-of-state African American students to attend any school in Connecticut without permission from local authorities. In 1833, Crandall was arrested and faced the first of three trials for illegally operating her school. Though eventually she prevailed in court, a mob attacked the school in 1934 while she and her students were inside. Fearing for her students’ safety, Crandall was forced to close the school permanently.