Phillips Library digital collection: Let None Be Excluded: The Origins of Equal School Rights in Salem

February 28, 2023 1:16 pm

Nineteenth-century Salem residents celebrated the city’s early public school system for welcoming and educating children. Despite the system’s success, the Salem school committee moved to establish separate schools for Black children in 1834.

The sudden decision angered Black residents who launched a nearly decade-long struggle for the educational rights of children of color. Their valiant efforts convinced the Salem School Committee to abolish racially separate public schools in 1844. Salem was one of the first municipalities in the United States to do so. Ten years later, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to pass a law forbidding school committees from classifying students by race.

This exhibition featured documents reflecting the impassioned activism of young Black leaders, including Sarah Parker Remond and Robert Morris. These youth, as agents in their own education, sparked the national equal school rights movement by tethering educational rights to democracy and racial equality. These Salem voices and their spirited words and actions changed the course of our schools and our nation.


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