Prudence Crandall - State
In 1833, Prudence Crandall
established an academy for
African-American girls in Canterbury, Connecticut. Several months
later the state legislature passed what became known as the "Black
Law," targeted to prevent the school from operating. The preamble to
the act stated in part, "…establishment of literary institutions in
this State for the instruction of colored persons belonging to other
states and countries would tend to the great increase of the colored
population of the state, and thereby to the injury of the people…"
Crandall was arrested
and placed on trial. The superior court judge, Honorable David
Daggett, in his instructions to the jury stated that Negroes were
not citizens within the meaning of the term as used in the
Constitution of the United States. Crandall was convicted after
trial and then appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors.
In her appeal, she argued that the Connecticut law
was contrary to the Constitution of the United States. However, the
Connecticut Supreme Court did not decide the constitutional
questions. Rather, it reversed her conviction because it found the
language of the charging documents to be insufficient. Thus, it left
for future courts and generations the constitutional questions of
individual rights and states’ rights.
Faced with harassment
by the local townspeople, Prudence Crandall closed the school and
moved out of state. In 1886, the State Legislature granted her a
small pension, and followed more than a century later with the
designation of State Heroine in 1995.
See: Crandall v. The State of Connecticut 10 Conn. 339 (1834)
Dose of Connecticut Legal History