The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students

by Suzanne Jurmain

In 1831, Prudence Crandall opened a boarding school for girls in Canterbury, Connecticut.... read more

In 1831, Prudence Crandall opened a boarding school for girls in Canterbury, Connecticut. Around the same time, she happened to read a copy of William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper the Liberator and was so horrified by its accounts of slavery that she was determined to do something to make a difference. That something, she decided, would be to educate young black women in the north so they could become teachers and help others. Prudence made the decision to accept black pupils at her school without realizing what an uproar it would cause in her community and state, but her commitment never waivered as she battled over the next four years to keep her school open. Laws were passed to try to stop her. She was threatened and jailed. But she triumphed over the law and ignored the threats, continuing to teach the young black women who came from surrounding states for the opportunity to learn. It was only when the racism and bigotry led to violence that put her students in danger that Prudence finally relented, closing her school in May, 1835. Suzanne Jurmain’s riveting account of this steadfast woman and the students who were brave enough to study with her is inspiring. Jurmain mistakenly fails to clarify that the Fifteenth Amendment only gave suffrage to black men and not black women as well, but that unfortunate oversight doesn’t detract from the overall value of this fascinating account. Final chapters tell what happened to Prudence after she left Connecticut, and of the state’s official recognition in recent years of her important work. (Ages 12–15)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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