Senate President Donald Williams was more than prepared for his remarks at a Wednesday ceremony commemorating Connecticut’s state heroine, Prudence Crandall. He has spent the last six years writing a book about the national legal impacts of her case.
Crandall, a 19th century school teacher, is considered a civil rights hero for her efforts to run an integrated school in the 1830s. She was jailed for refusing to comply with a law passed by the Connecticut legislature in 1833 known as the “Black Law.”
Williams’ book focuses on the far-reaching legal ramifications of her case. He told a small crowd at a commemoration ceremony at the state Capitol Wednesday that the 14th Amendment, which includes the right to equal protection, has its legal roots in the arguments made by Crandall’s lawyers.
After the ceremony, Williams said he has been researching the issue in his spare time for the last six years and has written a book that will be published by Wesleyan University in June. When he started researching the topic, Williams said he was surprised to find how much more there is to Crandall’s story beyond what he initially knew.
“Here’s this law review article from 1950 and the first paragraph he says the genesis for the 14th Amendment can be found in the arguments presented by the attorneys for Prudence Crandall in Crandall v. State — I mean the hair on the back of my neck stood up,” he said.
Williams’ legislative district includes the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury, the town where Crandall once ran her school. He said he visited the museum for the first time after he was elected to represent the district.
“When I listened to the story, I thought ‘This speaks to us today. The lessons that can be learned from this story are not frozen in time in the 1830s.’ The whole issue of race and equal rights is still so alive,” he said.
The book will be called “Prudence Crandall’s Legacy: The Fight For Equality In the 1830s, Dred Scott and Brown v. Board of Education.” He said the text is about 400 pages long and that’s after he cut about 40,000 words from earlier drafts.
“I put down so much over the last six years and I learned so much,” he said.