Teacher Prudence Crandall: The Female State Hero of Connecticut

In 1831, well-known and highly-respected schoolteacher Prudence Crandall opened a boarding school for young ladies in Canterbury, Connecticut. By the end of the first year, she had earned the praise of parents, community members, and students throughout New England. Then one day an African American student named Sarah Harris asked to be admitted to the academy. Sarah said she wanted to learn how to be a teacher so she could open her own school for black students. Prudence knew admitting an African American student would generate some resistance from her neighbors, but after some soul-searching, she decided her conscience would not allow her to refuse the request. Prudence had severely under-estimated the resistance. Figuring the complaint was that she was operating an integrated school, the intrepid teacher closed her academy for white girls and re-opened as an academy for “misses of color.” That just made the situation worse, causing ripples all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulting in Prudence’s brief incarceration in the local jail. Years later, however, her fearless stance became the reason she was named the Female State Hero for Connecticut. Read the gripping account of this valiant teacher in the book The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students by Suzanne Jurmain, available on amazon. I have also included a chapter about this courageous teacher in my soon-to-be-released second book, Chalkboard Heroes.