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Prudence Crandall’s pioneering effort to integrate schools

CANTERBURY, Connecticut — Prudence Crandall may not be the first thing that you think of when you hear the words “integrated schools.”
But Crandall was one of the first to integrate a school in Connecticut.
Crandall is the heroine of Connecticut. She was born in 1803 in Rhode Island, and eventually, moved to Connecticut.
In 1832, she started a private academy for girls in Canterbury, for the daughters of wealthy families, according to the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism’s history division, which offers a brief description of her role in the state’s history on its website.
One of the reasons Crandall is Connecticut’s heroine outlined on the state website. She accomplished something incredible: she admitted Sarah Harris – a 20-year-old black woman who wanted to be a teacher – into her private academy for girls.
Many families took their daughters out of the school because Harris was a student there, and Crandall closed the academy temporarily. She shut the doors for two months before reopening it as an academy for black girls, the website says.
Young black women came to Crandall’s school from around New England, according to the information from the state. In response to Crandall’s efforts, Connecticut created the “Black Law,” making it illegal for her to run the school.
Crandall was arrested, put in jail for one night and at one point confronted three trials, the state website says. Her case was dismissed in 1834.
But her ordeal didn’t end there, because a couple months later, a mob attacked her school, forcing her to close the school again, this time for safety reasons.
Today, her school is a museum operated by the state of Connecticut.

Gabi Smith-Rosario is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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