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The Canterbury Female Academy: Teachers and Students (1833-1834 and beyond)

A luminous moment. Women - Black and white - changing history, being a lever that altered the trajectory of the Abolitionist movement. Yet far too many people remain unaware of the achievement of the Canterbury Female Academy, and its brave teachers and students. I have spent much of my professional life research and speaking on this topic. Not everything I have found will make it into print, but in the age of the internet, nothing need be lost.

Here is the Prudence Crandall Museum video; I am one of the scholars included in it. I am proud of this work, and proud to be part of a community of scholars working to illuminate this important story - because its illumination can light both yesterday and a shared tomorrow.


The Canterbury Female Academy for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color: The Basic Story

Prudence Crandall was a white woman, raised as a Quaker, who, in 1831, was asked by the town leaders in Canterbury Connecticut to be the head teacher for a Select Female Academy.

Detailed Timeline of the Canterbury Female Academy and Major Participants 

This will be a major undertaking,
with color-coding and multiple levels. 
Your patience is appreciated!

Tribulations and  (Transcribed) Trials

The root of the word "tribulation" comes from Latin tribulare ‘press, oppress’, from tribulum ‘threshing board (constructed of sharp points)’, based on terere ‘rub’  (from Oxford Languages via Google). Since this reflects the level of visceral pain and oppression that the enemies of the Canterbury Female Academy attempted to inflict upon the students, I decided that reversing the usual English phrasing of "trials and tribulations" was well-warranted.


Brooklyn's current Town Hall is the same building as the old courthouse. (Wikimedia commons). The air-conditioner was not present in 1833...just sayin'

In a mere eleven months (August 1833-July 1834), there were four courtroom trials concerning the Canterbury Female Academy. As part of my combined projects on the Academy, Prudence Crandall, the African-American students and community, the Burleigh family, and the newspaper The Unionist, I have transcribed the trial transcripts from all of these legal court cases. Roughly, two went in favor of the school, one went against, and one was a draw. But the stress of such proceedings is intense - especially when one knows that all the judges, juries, and lawyers were NOT members of the affected groups - African-Americans and women. Therefore, the trials encapsulate both what structural power means, and how a few white male allies and those who were technically excluded from power within the legal system - Black women and men, and white women - could still leverage their moral power and rhetorical skill to affect the outcomes. 

1. August 22-23, 1833 - First Black Law Trial, Brooklyn CT (Judge Joseph Eaton)

2. October 3, 1833 - Second Black Law Trial, Brooklyn CT (Judge David Daggett)

3. March 1834 - The Olney Trial

4. July 1834 - Third Black Law Trial (Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors)

Rycenga's Canterbury Progress



Publications of mine that include substantial material on the Canterbury Female Academy, Prudence Crandall and the Black students


Talks and Presentations

A list of public presentations given by me on the Canterbury Female Academy, Crandall, and the Black students. There is also a list of ready-to-go presentations for YOUR group!


In Preparation

The latest and the longest projects related to the Canterbury Female Academy, Prudence Crandall and the Black students

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