(Courtesy of the Prudence Crandall Museum, Canterbury, Connecticut.)
(Photo by and courtesy of Tod Swiecichowski)
n the southwest corner of the main crossroads in the town of Canterbury, Connecticut, stands a gracious house. Although it resembles many other houses in the area in appearance, this house stands apart because of the unique role it played in promoting the educational opportunities of African Americans prior to the Civil War. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991, the house is open to the public as the Prudence Crandall Museum. It has changed little since events here in the early 1830s focused national attention on abolition and the rights of African Americans to a quality education.
At the intersection of 14th and Park Streets in Little Rock, Arkansas, stands a large high school. Although it may resemble other large urban high schools built in the 1920s, Central High School captured the attention of the nation in 1957, when nine African-American students attempted to integrate Little Rock's schools. In 1998, the building, already a National Historic Landmark, was designated as Central High School National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System.
Canterbury, Connecticut, and Little Rock, Arkansas, are links in a chain of events representing the long struggle for equal educational opportunities for African Americans. This lesson plan highlights two important historic places and the role each played in testing the prevailing assumptions of the time regarding racial integration of schools. It also tells the story of conflict between the rule of law and the rule of the mob, and the importance of a free press in exposing social injustice.