My class is finding out about freedom and slavery in 1774. I’m doing this research because I want to know what happened in the northeast corner of Connecticut in or around the town of Pomfret. While reading the blog entry, Preaching the Abolition of Slavery, I learned about an abolitionist named Anthony Benezet who was a school teacher in Philadelphia, and he also taught African-American students in his home. Benezet was born in France in 1713. To escape persecution (as Huguenots), his parents immigrated to England and then to America. Benezet eventually became a Quaker. With the help of other Quakers, he set up a school for black children called the African Free School in Philadelphia. He treated white students and black students equally.
The research about Benezet linked to and eventually led me to my next investigation about Prudence Crandall and her school in Canterbury, CT., which is located just south of Pomfret. Prudence was born into a Quaker family in 1803 in Hopkinton R.I. In 1831 she opened an academy on the green in Canterbury for wealthy local girls. A year later, she became a symbol of African-American education when she admitted Sarah Harris, a 20-year-old black woman. Harris wanted to be a teacher because she wanted other African-Americans to become educated. Many local white residents demanded that Harris is removed from the school, or they would withdraw their daughters. However, Crandall refused their request and established a school dedicated exclusively to the teaching of African-American girls. She started to recruit other African-American girls. The Connecticut residents were on the opposite side and refused to tolerate a school for young women of color. Finally, the state of Connecticut passed the “Black Law” and put Crandall into jail for one day. She faced three trials, but the case was dismissed in 1834. However, local residents attacked the school, forcing Crandall to close the school and leave.