Petition for equal school rights

All Titles

  • Petition for equal school rights

Dublin Core


Petition for equal school rights



Citizens of Rhode Island


Rhode Island State Archives




Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.





Document Item Type Metadata


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.

Original Format



Citizens of Rhode Island, "Petition for equal school rights," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #490, (accessed October 15, 2019).