Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Prudence Crandall

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Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Prudence Crandall
b. 1803, Hopkinton, Rhode Island; d. 1890, Elk Falls, Kansas

In 1831, the town of Canterbury, Connecticut, invited teacher Prudence Crandall to run a private school for girls. Influenced by the work of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and the antislavery newspaper, The Liberator, Crandall made the decision to admit blacks to the school. The decision outraged local citizens and many white students withdrew. In 1833, Crandall reopened a school on the same spot for black students only. This time, locals unleashed a campaign of harassment and terror against Crandall. The school was vandalized, students were stoned and taunted, and the water supply was fouled with dead animals. The state legislature supported the mob by enacting the "Black Law," which prohibited the establishment of schools for nonresident blacks without the consent of local authorities. Crandall was then arrested under this law in June 1833. Her conviction at trial was overturned on a technicality in July 1834, but the sustained abuse directed at Crandall and her students throughout this period drove her to close the school. She moved west with her husband and settled in Illinois.

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