Prudence Crandall

by Karen Board Moran

Courtesy of the Prudence Crandall Museum

Abby Kelley’s classmate at the New England Friends Boarding School, Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) was also inspired to join the anti-slavery cause within her own sphere of influence. Both young women chose teaching as a way to earn a living and touch their students’ lives. This advertisement appeared in the Saturday, March 2, 1833 Liberator, published by William Lloyd Garrison.

Principal of the Canterbury, (Conn.) Female Boarding School,

Returns her most sincere thanks to those who have patronized her School, and would give information that on the first Monday of April next, her School will be opened for the reception of young Ladies and little Misses of color. The branches taught are as follows:--Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, English Grammar, Geography, History, Natural and Moral Philosophy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Drawing and Painting, Music on the Piano, together with the French language.

The terms, including board, washing, and tuition, are $25 per quarter, on half paid in advance.

Books and Stationary will be furnished on the most reasonable terms.

For information respecting the School, reference may be made to the following gentlemen, viz:--Arthur Tappan, Esq., Rev. Peter Williams, Rev. Theodore Raymond, Rev. Theodore Wright, Rev. Samuel C. Cornish, Rev. George Bourne, Rev. Mr. Hayborn, New York City;--Mr. James Forten, Mr. Joseph Cassey, Philadelphia, Pa.;--Rev. S.J. May, Brooklyn, Ct.;--Rev. Mr. Beman, Middletown, Ct.;--Rev. S.S. Jocelyn, New-Haven, Ct.;--Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Arnold Buffum, Boston, Mass.;--George Benson, Providence, R.I. Canterbury, (Ct.) Feb. 25, 1833

In response to Crandall’s new school, the Hartford General Assembly passed the infamous “Black Law” in 1833 that made it illegal to establish any school or academy for the instruction of “colored persons who are not inhabitants of this State.”

By breaking this law, “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,” according to the Crandall Museum.

Perhaps this was one of Abby’s reasons for choosing Connecticut, the most conservative New England state, to launch her career as an anti-slavery lecturer in 1839. Her sister Olive Darling’s farm in East Hampton was her base of operations and moral support for the nine months she faced much discrimination as a public speaking woman and abolitionist. Her mission was to not only free the slaves, but raise awareness of the prejudice against blacks. By her actions the people of Connecticut often realized the prejudice against women, as well.

Connecticut repealed the “Black Law” in 1838, but did not abolish slavery until 1848.

Educational Resource:

Teaching with Historic Places Series. “From Canterbury to Little Rock: The Struggle for Educational Equality for African Americans”. National Park Service.