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.
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 parents to withdraw their daughters from the school.
Crandall stood by her convictions, establishing New England's first school for African-American women in 1833, and attracting students from as far away as Boston, New York, 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.
You can explore these features on the site:
- Period Rooms — Watch a video that brings Prudence Crandall’s story to life, then walk in her and her students’ footsteps through four rooms where it all happened.
- Exhibit Galleries — Learn about different aspects of Crandall’s story in a more in-depth way through three changing exhibit galleries on the second floor.
- Gift Shop — Browse a wide selection of gifts and souvenirs, including historical reproductions, toys and games, and books for adults and children.
- Research Library — Make an appointment to research Prudence Crandall, her students, civil rights history, abolition, racism, sexism and injustice. There is no charge to use the library.
- Grounds — Stroll the landscaped site that features gardens and stone walls.
Events & Exhibits
Prudence Crandall Takes a Sabbatical*
Sunday, October 20, 2019—2 p.m. to 4 p.m., FREE
You are invited as we honor the accomplishments of Prudence Crandall and the students of the Canterbury Female Boarding School. Featuring brief remarks by Jennifer Rycenga, Prudence Crandall biographer, this celebration includes a Peace Pole dedication, candle lighting, and reception.
Last chance to view the museum before renovations begin! This event is held in collaboration with the Peace Center of Connecticut, Hartford. For more information: 546-7800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Sabbatical: A period of leave for a teacher or professor for study or travel.
1 South Canterbury Road
Canterbury, CT 06331
Mailing address: P.O. Box 58, Canterbury, CT 06331
- May-October: Thursday-Sunday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (last ticket sold at 3:30 p.m.)
- Closing October 2019 for renovations. Last day open to tour will be Sunday, October 20, 2019.
- Adults: $6
- Seniors: $5
- Children (12 & younger): free
- Member of the Friends of the Prudence Crandall Museum: free
- Groups: $5 per person for 10 or more people by appointment
- School Groups: $2 per person by appointment
As a Blue Star Museum, we offer free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families.
Plan Your Visit
Learn more about the museum and the surrounding area at CTvisit.com.
Joan DiMartino, Museum Curator
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.
White Students, 1831-1833
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