Imagine if you will, you have a nice life. A good job, educating girls, teaching them, helping them to make their own ways in the community as well. Respect in the community. Life is good. You can’t really see anything in your life that needs changing. Then someone asks you a question “Can you will admit me to your school?” And so we have “The Forbidden Schoolhouse“.
This, this is the story of Prudence Crandall and her bravery in accepting the challenge of the question given her. She would accept this student, a person of colour, into her school. She would help her learn so that she in turn to teach other children of colour.
I found this book to eye-opening and simply um…it’s really hard to put into words how I felt. I was horrified at the hatred and the lengths people would got through to maintain the status quo. The fear, the anger, the self-justification, the meanness, and the kindness. There are so many opposing viewpoints within the pages of this tome, and in the end…oh… the sorrow.
I don’t know if you know the story of The Forbidden Schoolhouse or the work of Prudence Crandall, it was totally new to me, but I am admittedly not up on black history, particularly black history in The States. Learning about Prudence Crandall led to me searching out more information on her and her life.
I have to admit, it’s easy to look back and say “what these people did was wrong”. It’s very easy to do so. It’s easy for us, looking back, to judge the status quo. I have a hard time understanding the vitriolic actions taken against Ms. Crandall and her girls. I can’t really conceive of it, but I don’t live in a place where people have cause to act out such hatred and horror of an outstanding change in the status quo. It brings to mind to me of how in some places if a person changes their faith, how the family can shun them and cast them out. In essence, Ms. Crandall’s family “cast her out” for daring to stand up against the established norm.
The immense bravery of Ms. Crandall in standing against what she believed was wrong. She knew things could end horribly and yet, and yet she moved forward anyways. She got some good advice, and put a support system into place should it be needed, and then she STOOD. Steadfast, determined in her convictions. Can very many of us say that would we do the same? To stand against the judgement we would know we would face?
Ms. Crandall stood fast until the lives of her girls and her own life were in immediate and ready danger. Then she got everyone to safety and left.
This is a non-fiction book and is filled with images of the people and places talked about in the book. We see copies of letters written, coins and newspaper clippings.
This book left an impact on my life. I would definitely recommend reading it. Not just to learn about black history, but also to act as an encouragement to standfast in your decisions. To seek good advice (and to continue seeking), and then once you make up your mind to standfast, until there are no options left for you. It was good to see the goodness of others, folks prepared to help her to standfast, I loved seeing the bravery of her girls and observing the support of her family. Reading level is middle school and up.
I wish that Ms. Crandall had listened to her friends with their hesitations about her love of Calvin. But in the end, she made the best of it. I thought it was marvellous the response of the town years later.
The Forbidden Schoolhouse The true and dramatic story of Prudence Crandall and Her students. Suzanne Jurmain Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 160 pages, middle school black history, Prudence Crandall, USA history, non-fiction Reviewed for Raincoast Books. Where to find: Amazon Link.
Other Black History books that might interest you.