Prudence Crandall Museum, Canterbury


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 the Canterbury Female Boarding School 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 academy solely 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.



1 South Canterbury Road
Canterbury, CT 06331

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


  • The Prudence Crandall Museum will be opening through timed tours Friday--Monday, June 12 to October 31, 2022.  Tour times are: 9 am, 10:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3 pm.


(860) 546-7800


Joan DiMartino, Museum Curator & Site Superintendent, 860-546-7800 x.101

Related Resources

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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