Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students

Jurmain, Suzanne. 2005. The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0618473025

An emotionally-charged history of a little-known heroine of civil rights who lived a century before school integration. The tumultuous years of Prudence Crandall's school for "girls of color" is chronicled here, taking the reader from its inception to its eventual demise.

Critical Analysis
Suzanne Jurmain has written a powerful history that shows what one individual can do when one truly believes in the rights of others, even when it goes against the convictions of the time. Purdence Crandall is a figure in history whose story needs to be told, and Ms. Jermain does it succinctly and in such a way that leave no doubt to the reader of how Purdence Crandall felt about the education of young ladies of color: "In the midst of this affliction I am as happy as at any moment in my life."
Ms. Jurmain has left no stone unturned in her extensive research of Prudence Crandall which goes beyond the history text and offers appendices which include information on former students and on both friends and enemies and their struggle for equal rights. Notes are given at the end of the book detailing the sources used in each chapter, which include primary sources of letters and newspaper accounts of the day. A bibliography of books and newspapers is also offered.
Sprinkled throughout the chapters are current photos of the actual school building which still stands today, along with old photographs of the people in Prudence Crandall's life. A photo of the actual newspaper advertisement written by Miss Crandall advertising her boarding school is also shown, along with other newspaper articles of the day.
Suzanne Jurmain uses mid-level vocabulary which is easy to understand. Older students should be able to research this book on their own with ease.

Review Excerpts
"Jermain has plucked an almost forgotten incident from history and has shaped a compelling, highly readable book around it." —Booklist, starred
"Fascinating photographs and images...and endnotes provide insight into the lives of the students, Crandall, and her supporters." —Horn Book
"This book offers a fresh look at the climate of education for African Americans and women in the early 1800s."––School Library Journal
"A captivating read." --Kirkus Reviews

This book or excerpts of the book could be shared in read alouds during Black History Month
Include as extra research during fifth grade units on the Civil War
Include in a woman's rights study
Encourage students to research further the bibliography at the end of the book.

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