On the night of Sept. 9, 1834, Prudence Crandall, her new husband and some of her black female students were inside her school in the village of Canterbury when they heard loud voices outside and then banging on the doors. They heard glass being smashed and windows being ripped from their frames. Then, men invaded the first floor and began to overturn furniture.
Accounts of what else happened that night are almost too melodramatic to be believed. One student was said to have been so frightened she coughed up a pint of blood. The attackers may have tried to set fire to the school, willing, if not wishing, to burn its occupants to death. In any case they got what they wanted. The damage was great enough that a friend of Crandall's who arrived the next day said it was foolish to repair the school only to have it destroyed again.
Within days the school building was up for sale, the students gone and Crandall in retreat to her father's farm outside the town center. The next year she moved with her husband, an eccentric minister, to upstate New York and a few years later to the Illinois frontier. Her father, Pardon, who had been threatened for supporting her and her school, had moved west already, seeking, it was said, a place more peaceful than Connecticut.
Crandall herself never returned home for long. She was 87 when she died in 1890 at her final western homestead, a rude, book-filled cabin in Elk Falls, Kansas, where she claimed to have found happiness. By then Connecticut had begun to treat her better too. In 1886, the Civil War having cleansed the state's racial conscience, the legislature rewarded her with a $400 a year pension. A century later, the Canterbury schoolhouse was turned into a state museum. And in 1995, the legislature anointed Crandall state heroine, mating her with Nathan Hale, who earned martyrdom at the end of a British hangman's rope in 1776.
Both her house and her heroine designation, however, testify to the way Crandall has been not so much remembered as forgotten. The museum badly needed a paint job even before a state budget cut last summer threatened to close it entirely. Only an eleventh-hour appeal saved it and three other state museums. Her heroine's citation in the state Blue Book celebrates her for establishing the first school in New England for black women, but says nothing of its importance and glosses over the violence directed against it. It says that Crandall was placed on trial twice for breaking a law intended to stop her from operating her school, but merely notes that the charges were dismissed and that the school later closed.
The official version of Crandall's story is necessarily brief, but needlessly passive. In it her enemies are faceless and the state blameless.
Yet if any of her neighbors heard the battering and the probable cries for help on the night of Sept. 9, 1834, they did not rush to the rescue. Crandall's neighbors, in fact, had been the first to condemn her when, in March 1833, she announced her intention to admit black students. If not among the vigilantes who attacked her school 18 months later, her neighbors almost certainly encouraged them.
And it was Connecticut itself that exposed her to criminal prosecution. In May 1833, almost before her students had time to open their books, the General Assembly, at the urging of people from Canterbury and surrounding towns, passed the infamous Black Law that declared such schools as hers, the first in New England, illegal.
Mostly the state citation reinforces the present day image of Crandall as a sort of good-hearted liberal who wanted to give unfortunate black girls an education. Even now, each of three mock-ups for a statue of Crandall to be erected at the Capitol (funded before the budget crisis) depicts Crandall in a protective pose. Kazimiera Kozlowski, who has been director of the Crandall museum since it opened, says most visitors arrive there thinking of Crandall as a Quaker schoolmarm.
Kozlowski is quick to correct them. Crandall was indeed raised a Quaker. But about the time she opened her school, she converted to a more aggressive Baptist faith. Nor were her cherished "colored scholars," as she called them, especially innocent or poor. Most were in their late teens, from relatively sophisticated families as distant as Providence and New York dedicated to winning equality for black Americans.
Crandall wanted to give them that chance. When she defied the Black Law, she was committing a transforming and life-risking act of civil disobedience. Her trials became a national test case for the new radical abolitionist movement led by the incendiary William Lloyd Garrison. The Canterbury schoolmarm, in fact, traveled to Boston in early 1833 to seek Garrison's support for her daring plan to convert the student body of the school she ran from white to black. The initial advertisement recruiting new students ran in Garrison's "Liberator" newspaper on March 2, 1833.
It said: "Prudence Crandall, Principal of the Canterbury (Conn.) Female Boarding School returns her most sincere thanks to those who have patronized her school and would give information that on the first Monday of April next, her school will open for the reception of young ladies and little misses of color. The branches taught are as follows: - Reading, Writing, arithmetic, English grammar, Geography, History, Natural and moral Philosophy, Chemistry, music on the Piano together with the French language."
The good people of Canterbury, who had been happily sending their daughters to Crandall's school for just such an education, reacted with outrage to this ad not just because it invited black girls to town, but also because of what it implied.
In 1833, in Connecticut, as elsewhere, the notion of black equality, which Crandall deliberately embraced, was scandalously at odds with the nearly universal belief of whites in their own superiority. Even most abolitionists did not think slaves should be freed to become citizens. They were colonizationists who generally believed that blacks, whether free or enslaved, could never live peacefully in white America and should be sent back to Africa. They feared crime and discord, and worse, "amalgamation," the prospect of whites and blacks mixing socially and carnally.
At its most extreme, equality raised fears of bloody rebellion. Nat Turner's Virginia slave uprising had been stamped out less than two years before. Turner was still at large when, in September 1831, the townspeople of New Haven rejected by a vote of 700 to 4 an abolitionist plan to open a school similar to Crandall's for young black men near Yale.
A newspaper editorial against the New Haven school was typical of the sentiment of the time. "What benefit can it be to a waiter or coachman to read Horace, or be a profound mathematician?" the editorial said, arguing higher education would only increase Negro discontent. In Philadelphia, a meeting of colonizationists congratulated New Haven on its "escape from the monstrous evil" of a Negro college.
In Canterbury, people believed Crandall was in league with ultra-radicals like Garrison, who thought colonization was as immoral as slavery. At one town meeting, Canterbury residents passed a resolution declaring that her school was designed as an abolitionist "theater ... to promulgate their disgusting doctrines of amalgamation, and their pernicious sentiments of subverting the Union. Their pupils were to have been congregated here from all quarters under the false pretence of educating them, but really to TO SCATTER FIRE-BRANDS, arrows and death among the brethren of our own blood."
The only fire-brands scattered in Canterbury, it turned out, were by arsonists bent on shutting her school down. Even before the final assault, there had been at least one proven attempt to set it on fire.
The hostility directed toward Crandall's school was hardly an aberration in supposedly tolerant New England. One of her evicted students transferred to the integrated Noyes Academy, in Canaan, N.H. It opened in March 1835 and by summer, the town had voted to close the school. But the people in Canaan didn't appeal to the state or act under the cover of darkness as the people of Canterbury had done. Instead on Aug. 10, a demolition crew hitched a long train of oxen to the Noyes Academy and dragged it off its foundation. According to one account, the students were still inside.
The influence of Maria Stewart
Little in Crandall's voice survives from the brief time she was notorious. Biographies have relied mostly on reporting from partisan newspapers and formal court arguments. Only now is the first full scholarly treatment of her life being prepared, by Jennifer Rycenga, a Connecticut native who went to Yale and is now a professor of comparative religion at San Jose State University in California.
Rycenga laments that Crandall did not leave a diary ("I wish," she said) and believes that national clamor over Crandall's school soon grew so loud that it eclipsed her and her students. If there was outside influence on her, it came first from the free black community that supported her school's goal and sent her their daughters, Rycenga said. She is convinced in particular that Crandall must have read the writings of the black feminist abolitionist Maria Stewart.
Born in Hartford in 1803, the same year as Crandall, Stewart spent her youth as an indentured servant before finding a pulpit in Boston. There she became the first woman, black or white, known to make a political speech before a mixed audience. "It is astounding to me that the name Maria Stewart is not on the tip of everybody's tongue. Whatever the coverup has been, it is my job in life to uncover it," Rycenga said.
In 1831, in a speech reprinted in Garrison's "Liberator," Stewart declared: "Shall it any longer be said of the daughters of Africa, they have no ambition, they have no force? By no means. Let every female heart become united, and let us raise a fund for ourselves; and at the end of one year and a half, we might be able to lay the cornerstone for the building of a high school, that the higher branches of learning might be enjoyed by us."
Less than two years later, Crandall determined to remake her school into the kind Stewart envisioned. Her students were to become teachers, departing Canterbury to promote black advancement.
"What Crandall did ... was very threatening," Rycenga said. "It set up the possibility of equality in a whole new way. It was another thing entirely that [her students] were going to be reading classics and studying French ... It was a very significant experiment. They could win hearts in a way, and a number of people converted to the [abolitionist] cause as a result of what she did."
Rycenga said sentimental latter-day depictions of Crandall have diminished her even as they celebrate her. Crandall's radicalism is suggested in her correspondence after the Civil War with Ellen Larned, who was writing a history of Windham County. In one letter, Crandall declared, "It is my opinion that the colored scholars under my care made as good, if not better progress than the same number of whites taken from the same position in life."
Another letter contained an even more subversive remark. "For most of the time we were our own washer women and kissed each other with as much freedom as though we had all been white as snow banks, but never for the purposes of being seen by the villagers," Crandall remembered.
At the time even zealous abolitionists hesitated to be seen socializing with their black allies. Crandall accompanied her students to church, sitting with them in segregated pews.
Hard times, tough decisions
Crandall, the second of four children, was born Sept. 3, 1803, in Rhode Island's Hope Valley. A decade later her father moved the family across the border to a farm in Canterbury. Like other farmers he dabbled in trade and gave his children advanced educations for the time. One brother, Reuben, became a doctor and another, Hezekiah, owner of a small cotton mill. Crandall herself was sent to a Quaker school in Providence, now known by the name of its founder, Moses Brown. He was a member of the same family that gave Brown University its name and traced its wealth to the slave trade.
Her crucial exposure to black activists, as Rycenga sees it, came soon after she opened her Canterbury school in late 1831 when she hired a young black woman named Mariah Davis as servant help. Davis was from Boston, home to Garrison and a large free black community. She had moved to Canterbury to be near her future husband, Charles Harris, who coincidentally was the son of the local agent for "The Liberator." Mariah sometimes sat in on Crandall's classes, brought her copies of the abolitionist newspaper and introduced her to her fiancé's sister, Sarah.
In the fall of 1832, Sarah Harris asked Crandall if she could attend classes without boarding at the school. Crandall hesitated, then agreed after letting her Bible fall open to a passage from Ecclesiastes: "So I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of the oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter."
The backlash came almost immediately. When a minister's wife warned her school would go under if she continued to teach Sarah Harris, Crandall responded, "it might sink then, for I should not turn her out." White parents began to withdraw their daughters. The loss of students (and their tuition) may have been a reason Crandall secretly wrote to Garrison in January 1833, asking if she could visit him to talk about "changing white scholars for colored ones."
Crandall met Garrison in Boston, then journeyed to Providence and New York City seeking students and supporters. In late February, she dismissed her remaining white students. When the ad seeking black replacements appeared in "The Liberator," the battle lines were already being formed.
The ad listed 15 sponsors, eight white and seven black, none local and all prominent or destined to become prominent in the new abolitionist movement. Among the white men were Garrison; Samuel May, the minister of the Unitarian Church in nearby Brooklyn, Conn.; Arthur Tappan, a New York textile merchant whose wealth would help fuel the abolitionist cause; and Simeon Jocelyn, a minister who preached at a black church in New Haven. Both Tappan and Jocelyn had backed the failed attempt to start the black college there. In Crandall the abolitionists staked renewed hopes and also risked a second, more damaging defeat. So committed was Tappan to her school's success that he financed the start-up of an abolitionist paper, "The Unionist," in Brooklyn to represent their cause.
In Canterbury, nearly everyone opposed Crandall. A doctor who lived opposite the school, Andrew Harris, refused to treat her black students even though he had been one of her original trustees and had tutored her brother, Reuben. One week after the "Liberator" ad appeared, Andrew Judson, who had gubernatorial ambitions and who was also a close neighbor and former Crandall trustee, seized a hastily called town meeting as a platform. No school for "nigger girls" would ever stand across the street from his house, he was said to have vowed, promising that if black students did show up he would use an old Colonial law to have them arrested as paupers.
When Samuel May and another abolitionist Crandall sent to represent her at the meeting asked to speak, Judson shouted them down as interlopers. Ellen Larned reported that they were confronted with "fists doubled in their faces" and driven from the church where the meeting was held. Judson would become Crandall's chief prosecutor.
Before the meeting Crandall had offered to move her school to the outskirts of town. Afterward, she determined to keep it where it was. In a memoir written years later, May described her and her students as "resolute," holding out against the town "like the besieged in the immortal Fort Sumter." Against the threat of the pauper law that imposed fines and flogging as punishment, May found her "animated by the spirit of a martyr." In mid-April, after the first of her students had arrived, she wrote to Simeon Jocelyn, "In the midst of this affliction, I am as happy as any moment in my life."
Defying the Black Law
The possibility of prosecution under the pauper law ended with the passage of the Black Law, which made it illegal for out-of-state students of color to attend a school without local permission. The General Assembly reportedly called in a Hartford phrenologist, an expert in the then-credible science that character could be determined from the shape of a person's skull, to testify that Negroes could not be educated beyond a certain level and could never be fit citizens.
While the law itself was worded dryly, the committee report that backed it was vivid. It began sympathetically by decrying the "horrid traffic" in human slavery and admitting a need to help "the unhappy class of beings, whose race has been degraded by unjust bondage."
But sympathy yielded to reality. "We are under no obligations, moral or political to incur the incalculable evils of bringing into our own state colored immigrants from abroad," the report said. It noted that Connecticut, which had long since ordered the gradual emancipation of resident slaves and allowed blacks to attend lower district schools, had the right to determine who should enjoy full citizenship.
In Canterbury, people rang church bells, fired guns and lighted bonfires to celebrate the new law. A month later on June 27, 1833, authorities arrested both Crandall and her younger sister Almira, who had joined her as a teacher, for breaking the law. Not yet 21, Almira was let go as a minor. Crandall, refusing to let her abolitionist supporters post bail, went to jail. She apparently hoped to embarrass her opponents. Respectable white women did not go to jail, especially one that everyone knew had recently held a notorious wife strangler.
The distance from Canterbury center to Brooklyn center is about 10 miles. In her 1990 biography "A Whole-Souled Woman," Susan Strane likened Crandall to Joan of Arc, imagining her journey up the country road to the jailhouse as public spectacle. In his memoir, May said he gave Crandall a chance to change her mind even as the sheriff was about to lock her up. "Oh no," she told him, "I am only afraid they will not put me in jail."
Crandall (as later Henry David Thoreau more famously would) spent only one night in jail, but she succeeded in putting her enemies on the defensive. They began to complain bitterly that abolitionists spread misinformation that Crandall had been put in the very cell the strangler had occupied. Later, Crandall corrected that story in one of her letters to Larned. She said she'd only been placed in the debtor's room that the condemned man had stopped in on his way to his hanging. "I wish to say that the jailer was very polite," Crandall wrote, adding that a woman friend had been allowed to stay the night with her.
Who can be a citizen?
Her first trial was held in late August. Newspapers carried long stories describing the testimony, which in hindsight seems almost comical. Her students gave evasive answers, and visitors to the school called as witnesses claimed they could not recall whether they'd seen Crandall actually teaching. Finally one testified she saw Crandall giving geography and arithmetic lessons. In the end, the jury could not agree on a verdict.
The hung jury led to a second trial in early October. This time Crandall was found guilty, but she was not sentenced because her lawyers appealed. In both trials and in the appeal, however, the testimony of witnesses was less important than the lawyers' arguments and the judges' rulings. If her school was an experiment of national significance, her arrest promised to be a national test case. Her lawyers challenged the Black Law on the grounds that it violated the clause in the U.S. Constitution that said no state could deny to others rights it gave its own citizens. The crucial question, in a nation still wedded to slavery, was whether blacks could be considered citizens.
Crandall's defense was bankrolled by Arthur Tappan and led by William Ellsworth. A congressman soon to be elected governor, Ellsworth was the son-in-law of dictionary writer Noah Webster of West Hartford and the son of Oliver Ellsworth of Windsor. The senior Ellsworth had been a signer of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional convention in 1787, and an early chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Her chief prosecutor, Judson, would also become a congressman as well as a judge in the Amistad case. A former legislator, he was a pillar of the community who was a director of both a county bank and insurance company. The chief judge in the first trial had sat on the legislative committee that drafted the Black Law and had banking ties to Judson. The chief judge in the second trial, David Daggett, had as mayor of New Haven opposed the black school there and was a vice president of the Hartford Colonization Society.
At one time or another, these men debated state's rights, the consequences of ending slavery and the definition of citizenship - issues that divided the nation and eventually were addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case on the eve of the Civil War.
In the Crandall case, Ellsworth contended that because blacks had fought in the Revolutionary Army and received war pensions they must be considered full citizens under the U.S. Constitution. Judson responded with a Catch-22 type argument: If blacks could not vote, as in Connecticut they could not (the new state constitution of 1818 specifically denied them the franchise), then it followed that they could not be considered full citizens.
Their rhetoric reached its peak when they argued the case on appeal in July 1834 in Hartford. Ellsworth said only Southern slave states had laws as "obnoxious" as the Black Law. "It rivets the chains of grinding bondage and makes our State an ally in the unholy cause of slavery itself," he said. He warned the court that slavery put the nation in peril. "Slavery is a volcano, the fires of which cannot be quenched, nor its ravages controlled," he said.
Judson also predicted cataclysm. Should Ellsworth win, he said, "The consequences will inevitably destroy the government itself, and this American nation - this nation of white men - may be taken from us and given to the African race!" He closed his argument by saying, "It rests with the Court to say whether the country shall be preserved or lost and I leave it for them to decide."
If both Ellsworth and Judson saw the fate of the nation hanging in the balance in the Crandall case, the Connecticut appeals court ruling was decisively anticlimatic. It dismissed the case on technicalities. Nevertheless the case would prove an important precedent because of Judge Daggett.
At the beginning of Crandall's second trial, he told the jury that the case raised "the great question" of whether blacks were citizens under the U.S. Constitution. Then he answered the question for them. "To my mind, it would be a perversion of terms to say that slaves, free blacks or Indians were citizens, as the term is used in the Constitution. God forbid that I should add to the degradation of this race of men, but I am bound by my duty to say they are not citizens," he said.
In support of his opinion, Daggett cleverly undercut Ellsworth by quoting from his father-in-law's famous dictionary. "Dr. Webster, one of the most learned men of this or any country," Daggett said, defined citizen as the term was used in the U.S. to mean someone who could vote and own property.
Two decades later, in March 1857, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney cited Daggett's opinion when he wrote the decisive opinion in the Dred Scott case, finding that blacks could not be citizens and also that states had the right to decide whether to allow slavery. Taney said that Daggett's ruling in the Crandall case was noteworthy because of Connecticut's reputation as a liberal state.
"We have made this particular examination into the legislation and judicial action of Connecticut," Taney wrote, "because, from the early hostility it displayed to the slave trade on the coast of Africa, we may expect to find the laws of that State as lenient and favorable to the subject of race as those of any other State of the Union; and if we find that at the time the Constitution was adopted, [blacks] were not even there raised to the rank of citizens, but were still held and treated as property ... we shall hardly find them elevated to a higher rank anywhere else."
Taney, a colonizationist who had freed his own slaves, hoped his Dred Scott decision would end the conflict between North and South. Instead, it made it blaze more furiously. Debates over his ruling dominated the 1860 presidential campaign that ended with Abraham Lincoln's election. In that election, lenient Connecticut gave Lincoln one of his narrowest victories in New England.
As the legal attempts to crush Crandall's school moved from town meetings in March 1833 to her trials in August and October later that year to the appeals court the following summer, she, her students and their supporters were targets of varying degrees of harassment and threats.
Many were reported and probably exaggerated in the abolitionist press. At least one piece of evidence, a rock thrown though a school window, she kept on her mantel. Given the uncertainty of who did what when, Larned's account in her "History of Windham County" may be taken as a reliable summary.
"While waiting for legal power to break up the school, Canterbury did its best to make scholars and teachers uncomfortable. Dealers in all sorts of wares and produce agreed to sell nothing to Miss Crandall, the stage driver declined to carry her pupils, and neighbors refused a pail of fresh water, even though they knew their own sons had filled her well with stable refuse. Boys and rowdies were allowed unchecked if not openly encouraged to exercise their utmost ingenuity in mischievous annoyance, throwing real stones and rotten eggs at the windows and following the school with hoots and horns if it ventured to appear in the streets."
Rycenga, Crandall's latest biographer, believes the harassment was coordinated. "Her opposition had always been two-pronged on the legal front and the vigilante front," she said. The threats and violence tended to increase when it appeared the legal tactics were failing. The Canterbury episodes also fit into a wider pattern of mob attacks on blacks and abolitionists in other cities.
Rycenga believes vigilantes alone did not force her to close her school. Crandall knew of recent anti-black riots in New York and Philadelphia and may have worried that she could not protect her students and despaired she could not make a living. Her husband, Calvin Philleo, also probably was a factor in her decision to close the school. He was a Baptist preacher and widower, some 14 years older than she, with a teenage daughter and a 10-year-old son. They had been married less than a month when the school was attacked. It was long enough, Rycenga said, for Crandall to realize she'd made "an unfortunate marriage." Before the attack, Philleo had a grand plan to expand the school. After the attack, he placed the ad offering the school for sale.
Paying the price
Once the school closed, Crandall exited the public stage. But her life remained eventful and immersed in trouble. In 1835, she found herself living on Philleo's small farm in Boonville, N.Y., caring for his two ailing children and trying to cope with him. She'd discovered he was tyrannical and unstable. He ran up debts, began to have lapses of memory while preaching and forbade Crandall to read books even though he had a scheme to establish a network of libraries for Baptist ministers. One family source said he suffered from "overwork of the brain." After he fell in a fit into a blazing fireplace one day and she saved him from burning to death, a friend quipped, "In an absent-minded moment, she fished him out." The friend was Garrison.
While in Boonville, Crandall learned that her brother Reuben, who had moved to Washington, D.C., had been arrested on charges of seditious libel for distributing abolitionist literature. His prosecutor was Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner." Now a district attorney and an active member of the American Colonization Society, Key sought the death penalty against Reuben.
Reuben might have come under suspicion simply because he was Crandall's brother. Never active in the abolitionist cause, he'd gone to Washington as the private physician of an invalid family and also had a second career as a botanist. Some of the abolitionist literature found in his possession he'd used to pack botanical specimens. But at the time abolitionists had begun to flood the South with antislavery pamphlets that often contained attacks on the Colonization Society. Key turned the trial into a defense of colonization. At one point Key argued that the "great moral and political evil" the nation faced was not slavery, but rather "the whole colored race."
Reuben was eventually acquitted. However, he'd been held in jail for eight months and his imprisonment may have compromised his health. Three years younger than Prudence, he died in 1838. Her father died later the same year. Her sister Almira, who'd taught with her, had died the year before.
In 1840, Crandall and Philleo returned to Canterbury. The political pendulum had swung so fast that Windham County had a vigorous antislavery society and the legislature had repealed the Black Law. But their stay was short. In 1842, Crandall left to work the farm her father had bought in Troy Grove, Ill., just before his death. She took a teenage nephew as a helper. Philleo stayed behind for one of their frequent separations.
Crandall never had children, but she rarely was alone. One member or another of her extended family - her surviving brother, Hezekiah, and his children; Philleo's son and grandchildren - lived with her at one time or another. Even her mother came West to be cared for in her old age. Crandall went back East only once, to teach briefly in Boston. But she soon returned to the Troy Grove farm. By the end of the Civil War she'd established other homes in the Illinois towns of Mendota and Cordova even as the Troy Grove property stayed in the family.
As he aged, Philleo became a quieter and more constant presence in her various households. He was 87 when he died in 1874. Two years later, when she herself was 73, Crandall moved a last time, with her brother and his family, to a 160-acre farm even further west in the new settlement of Elk Falls, Kan.
All her life, Crandall stayed engaged. She became involved in the causes of temperance and women's suffrage. She wore pants. She invited black emigrees from slave states to visit. She also embraced spiritualism, as did other prominent Americans such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, and was declared a heretic by the Baptist Church. Later, she tried Christian Science. Rycenga said Crandall's participation in important 19th-century religious movements alone makes her noteworthy.
In her last years, journalists sought out the old woman who already seemed to them a historical figure. Her brother had died and they found her living in a rudely furnished 8-by-12 house filled with books and papers. Nevertheless she professed to be happy there and still idealistic.
"I like Kansas very much. My humble dwelling is situated in one of the most beautiful spots on earth," she was quoted as saying in an 1885 report in a Topeka paper. "The aspirations of my soul to benefit the colored race were never greater than at the present time. I hope to live long enough to see a college built on this farm, into which can be admitted all the classes of the human family, without regard to sex or color ... I want professorships of the highest order ... You see that my wants are so many, and so great, that I have no time to waste, no time to spend in grief ... I only need to mourn over my own misdeeds and shortcomings, which are many."
The newspaper reports of Crandall's living conditions apparently inspired Connecticut to atone for some of its own misdeeds. Samuel Clemens led an effort to buy back for her the Canterbury house she'd been forced to abandon. She declined, saying she preferred to stay in Kansas, but wrote Clemens a thank you note, asking instead for his photograph and a copy of "The Innocents Abroad."
Crandall did, however, accept the $400-a-year pension the legislature approved for her in 1886. The Courant led newspapers in favoring the pension, which was originally proposed in a petition from people in Canterbury. Their petition specifically said the wrong done her demanded "late reparation."
Crandall believed some reparation was due her. She told a Kansas City paper, "I want nothing from the Connecticut legislature as a gift. But I feel that they do owe me a just debt for all my property they destroyed, and I should like them to pay just a little of it."
Written sources for this article include:"Prudence Crandall: a Biography" by Marvis Olive Welch"A Whole-Souled Woman: Prudence Crandall and the Education of Black Women" by Susan Strane"The History of Windham County" by Ellen Larned"Slavery in the Courtroom: an Annotated Bibliography of American Cases," by Paul Finkelman"North of Slavery: the Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860" by Leon Litwak"New Haven Negroes: a Social History" by Robert A. WarnerCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times