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PRUDENCE CRANDALL: PROFILE IN COURAGE
by Gabe Lincoln

   The struggle for human equality is one thing, but when you’re over 65 and set in your ways like I am, it hardly rates when you’re driving through the boonies and you’ve missed your two o’clock snack. For this reason I believe it is imperative for me to announce at the start of this piece that there is a Dunkin’ Donuts directly across the street from the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury. Incongruous, miraculous, it sits there in the middle of the bucolic little village, in the midst of the graceful 18th and early 19th century homes that line up around the picture perfect town green. But let’s depart from the mundane and soldier on to the sublime, because Prudence Crandall was the real deal.

   In 1832, in this large, late-Georgian house, Prudence Crandall admitted a black girl to her female boarding school—and immediately faced a firestorm from the townfolks. Rather than back down Prudence decided, with the support of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, to open a school just for young women of color. Young black women arrived from all over southern New England. At this your friendly, liberal Connecticut townfolk went completely apeshit, as we would describe it back at McKinley School in Fairfield. Town meetings and threats of violence didn’t deter Prudence, so they were followed by a mob attack on the house where every window was broken. Prudence’s well was poisoned, and she was stopped from acquiring water from anyplace else. The state seemed to condone this violence by passing the “Black Law,” which outlawed the establishment of any school for instruction of “colored persons who aren’t inhabitants of this state.”  Fearing for the lives of her students and herself, Prudence Crandall was compelled to close the school.

   Waiting until she was just about to die, the state of Connecticut prudently awarded Prudence Crandall a pension of $400 dollars a year. In 1995, her bones long turned to dust, Prudence Crandall was proclaimed the official heroine of Connecticut. As the slogan says, “Connecticut: Still Revolutionary.” Now, the next big question is: What will I find across from my next destination, the Thomas Dunk house in Chester?


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