It is has been said that appearances can be deceiving and that is true of the large Federal-style building at the junction of routes 14 and 169 in rural Canterbury. Some 180 years ago for a brief burning moment it was a focus of the growing national abolition movement. A center of opportunity and of danger.
It was here that Prudence Crandall, a young Quaker woman from Rhode Island, in 1833 opened her school for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color, said to be the first integrated school New England. The story of Prudence Crandall is also the story of the young African American Sarah Harris whose desire to learn so she, in turn, could become a teacher, led to the founding of the school that would eventually attract students from as far away as Philadelphia.
Both women braved the conventions of the day and the very real threat of injury or death.
Long after Prudence Crandall fled the state because the constant harassment and vandalism led to arson and a fear for the safety of her young students, a more enlightened Connecticut recognized her and her noble experiment for what it was.
Today, she is revered by the state, which has named her its official female hero, and operates her former school as a museum.
The story of this shameful episode in Connecticut history is told simply and powerfully in a way that reminds visitors that what we take for granted today was anything but that in early Connecticut.
You can visit her home/school in season, but before that take a look at her story as told by the Friends of Prudence Crandall.