Prudence Crandall Museum, Canterbury

Overview

The story of the Canterbury Female Boarding School features prominently in the history of Civil Rights for African Americans. In 1833 Prudence Crandall, Connecticut's Official State Heroine, opened a higher education academy for "young ladies of color" at her Canterbury Female Boarding School, in Canterbury, Connecticut, after local response prevented her from integrating the school she established in 1831 by allowing Sarah Harris, a local African American young woman, to attend. Crandall and her students faced increased harassment and legal prosecution, yet classes continued until mob violence forced the school to close. Crandall's trial impacted two U.S. Supreme Court cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, demonstrating that the school's legacy for equal education continues to be relevant today.

Historical Significance

Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) opened an academy on the Canterbury Green in 1831 to educate the daughters of wealthy local families. But she incurred their wrath the following year when she admitted Sarah Harris, a 20-year-old African-American woman who wanted the education to become a teacher herself one day. Harris’ admittance to the academy led some parents to withdraw their daughters from the school.

 

Crandall stood by her convictions, and instead established a higher education academysolely for African-American women in 1833, attracting students from as far away as Boston, New York, Providence, and Philadelphia. When the State of Connecticut responded later that year by passing the Black Law, making the school illegal, she endured a night in jail and three court trials before the case was dismissed in 1834. When a mob attacked the school two months later, Crandall was forced to close her academy.

 

The site is now a National Historic Landmark and a State Archaeological Preserve.

 

Address

1 South Canterbury Road
Canterbury, CT 06331

Mailing address: P.O. Box 58, Canterbury, CT 06331

Hours

  • The Prudence Crandall Museum is CLOSED for renovations.  The Museum is scheduled to reopen sometime in 2021, although an official date has not yet been determined.

 

Contact

crandall.museum@ct.gov

(860) 546-7800

 

Joan DiMartino, Museum Curator

joan.dimartino@ct.gov, 860-546-7800 x.101

Related Resources

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To All On Equal Terms: The Life and Legacy of Prudence Crandall brings the story of Connecticut’s State Heroine to life. Watch this 27-minute video now.

 

Prudence Crandall Research Resources at the Prudence Crandall Museum

 

Period Newspaper Resources at the Museum

 

Prudence Crandall Resources at Other Libraries and Museums

 

Read indexed excerpts from the Boston-based Abolitionist newspaper The Liberator published by William Lloyd Garrison

Explore A Canterbury Tale: A Document Package for Connecticut’s Prudence Crandall Affair created by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolition