Prudence Crandall

Prudence Crandall

Prudence Crandall, a schoolteacher raised as a Quaker, stirred controversy with her education of black girls in Canterbury, Connecticut. Her private school opened in January 1832, was boycotted when she admitted a 20-year old black female student in the autumn of 1833; creating what is generally regarded as the first integrated classroom in the United States. Parents of the white children mostly withdrew their daughters, leading Crandall to found a school for "Young ladies and Misses of colour".

Word of the school passed down the Atlantic Seaboard, and black people began sending their daughters from out of state to the school. This led Connecticut to pass the "Black Law" which prohibited the education of black children from out of state. Crandall persisted in teaching, and was briefly jailed in 1832. Prudence had many supporters including famous writers such as Mark Twain and Arthur Tappan, a New York Abolitionist who printed anti-slavery papers.

Mobs forced the closure of the school in 1834, the same year she married the Rev. Calvin Phileo. Prudence Crandall Phileo moved out of state, to Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and to Illinois, where Calvin Phileo died. She then moved with her brother to Elk Falls, Kansas, where she is buried.

Connecticut repealed the Black Law in 1838, and later recognized Prudence Crandall with an act of the state legislature, providing her with a $400 yearly pension in 1886 (a little more than $9,120 in 2007 dollars). Born September 3, 1803 in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, she died in Elk Falls, Kansas, in 1890 at 87; a Kansas state historical marker recognizes her memory.

The school still stands in Canterbury, Connecticut, and currently serves as the Prudence Crandall museum.

The Prudence Crandall House in Canterbury, Connecticut, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991.

Garrison Keillor claims that Crandall is his ancestor in his book Homegrown Democrat.

In 1995, the Connecticut General Assembly designated Prudence Crandall as the state's official heroine.

A One-man show about Prudence Crandall entitled A Passion for Justice: The Prudence Crandall Story was written by Connecticut-based writer and director Dexter J. Singleton


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