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{Prudence Crandall Museum} Prudence Crandall Museum

National Historic Landmark 

State Archaeological Preserve
First academy in New England for African-American women
Home and school of Connecticut's State Heroine

Using the story and legacy of Prudence Crandall, Sarah Harris, and the Academy students to explore and confront issues of racism, sexism, and injustice in America.

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{Prudence Crandall} {Sarah Harris Fayerweather} Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) opened an academy on the Canterbury Green in 1831 to educate daughters of wealthy local families. The school was extremely successful until the following fall when she admitted Sarah Harris, a 20-year-old black woman. Sarah had hoped to become a teacher with the help of the education the academy could provide. Reflecting the attitudes of the times, Sarah's admittance to the academy led parents to withdraw their daughters.

Miss Crandall made contacts throughout the northeast's free black communities to attract young black women students. They came from as far away as Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia. The State responded by passing the "Black Law" which made it illegal for Miss Crandall to operate her school. Miss Crandall was arrested, spent a night in jail, and faced three court trials. The case was dismissed in July of 1834. Two months later a mob attacked the school, forcing Miss Crandall to close. The courage shown by Miss Crandall, our State's official heroine, features prominently in civil rights history. The "Black Law" was repealed in 1838.

The museum includes period rooms, changing exhibits, a small research library (available by appointment for in-house study), and a gift shop. The museum's first floor is fully accessible.

{Norwich Magazine Awards}   {Museum Curator Kaz Kozlowski accepting the Best Museum award}   {Best Museum in Northeastern Connecticut Award}
{Julia Williams Exhibit}
The Museum has recently been focusing our programming and exhibits on the life experiences of Prudence Crandall's African-American students.

Highlighted is the life of Julia Williams, one of the students who came to the Academy from Boston. Julia remained in Canterbury until the Academy was forced to close in 1834, and then continued her education at the Noyes Academy in Canaan, New Hampshire (a school for African-American students established in 1834.) Unfortunately, the Noyes Academy also fell victim to mob violence in 1835 and was forced to close. While at the Noyes Academy, Julia met her future husband, Henry Highland Garnet, also a student there. They married in 1841 and Julia and Henry spent their lives advocating for the rights of African-Americans. Julia died in 1870 at the age of 59, and her obituary referred to "...Her devotion to the anti-slavery cause."

The installation includes a period dress and a recreated travel trunk that holds reproduction items similar to those things Julia might have brought with her from Boston. Museum docents encourage museum visitors - especially younger visitors - to explore what the trunk holds, as the items are hands-on-friendly!

Connecticut Public Television's series Connecticut's Cultural Treasures features the Prudence Crandall Museum as one of the 50 most notable cultural resources in the state.

Click here to watch the 6-minute program. 

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1 South Canterbury Road, Canterbury, CT 06331  ~  ~  860-546-7800