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Petition for equal school rights | State Archives Catalog

Petition for equal school rights, 1862
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Petition for equal school rights

A petition for equal school rights for all children irrespective of color submitted to the Rhode Island General Assembly on January 29 1864.


To the Honorable General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island:

We the undersigned, citizens, would respectfully represent, that the colored citizens of Providence, Newport, and Bristol, are deprived of their just and constitutional rights. They are subjected to hardships above others residing in these same towns. Their children are forced to walk long distances to reach the schools assigned to them, and are deprived of the advantages of the High School altogether. The Constitution of this State makes no distinction among citizens on account of color, but guarantees to colored citizens every civil and political right and privil- ege which it secures to every other class. Article 1st, section 2d, reads thus : "All laws, therefore, should be made for the good of the whole." Again, the Constitution charges the General Assembly with the duty of promoting education by public schools, which, like the sun- light of heaven, should be free to all, however high or low; however rich or poor. The colored people of this State bear their full proportion of every public burden, are peaceable and law- abiding, and are anxious to perform all the duties of citizens. They feel themselves entitled to all the privileges belonging to that relation; nevertheless they are subjected to serious and pecu- liar inconveniences. The school houses exclusively appropriated to them are, in many instances, so far removed from the residences of the parents, that the attendance of the pupils is, of neces- sity, irregular, and their education imperfect; therefore they do not enjoy an equal participation of the advantages for which they contribute their equitable proportion; and by the establishment of a distinction founded on the principle of caste, their children suffer from a feeling of social degradarion, and lose the benefit which arises from equal and honorable emulation. The effect of this distinction is unfavorable to their intellectual and moral improvement, and consequently to the best interests of the community at large. We respectfully ask that these disabilities may be removed, and thus do away with the last remaining relic of Slavery and Barbarism in Rhode Island, and permit us to give our children as wide and comprehensive an education as is accorded to others. We therefore respectfully ask your honorable body so to amend the laws relating to the Public Schools, as to provide for the admission of all children, irrespective of color, into the schools for which their qualifications fit them. We only ask for equal and exact justice, and for this we will ever pray.

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