Petition for Equal School Rights

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Petition for Equal School Rights


Image of the petition to the Rhode Island General Assembly by John Hawson, Francis Jackson and 372 others asking for equal school rights, January 29, 1864.

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Petitions to the General Assembly finding aid<


Rhode Island State Archives


1864 January 29


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To the Honorable General Assembly
of the State of Rhode Island

We the undersigned Colered Citizens would respectfully repres-
ent, that we are deprived of our first and Constitutional
rights. Our Children are deprived of equal School privileges
with the Children of white citizens. They are subjected to
hardships that other residing in the same districts are not.
They are forced to walk long distances, to reach the proscribed
Schools assigned 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 privilege, which it secure to every other class. Again the
Constitution charges the General Assembly with the duty of
promoting education by public schools, which like the sunlight
of heaven should be free to all. The colored people of this state
bear their full proportion of ever public burden, are peaceable
and law abiding, and are anxious to perform all the duties of
citizens. We feel ourselves entitle to all the privileges belonging
to that relation. Nevertheless we are subjected to serious and peculiar
inconveniances. The School Houses exclusively appropriated to our
Children are, in many instances so far removed from our residen-
ces, that the attendance of the pupils is of neccesity irregular,
and their education imperfect, therefore they do not enjoy an
equal participation of the advantages for which the contribute
their equitable proportion. And by the establishment of a distinc-
tion founded on the principal of cast. Our Children suffer
from a feeling of social degradation, and lose the benefit which
arises from equal and honorable emulation the effect of this
distinction is unfavorable to their intellectual and moral improve-
ment, and consequently to the best interest of the community
at large. besides it costs the state nearly Three Thousand Dollars
anualy, all of which might be saved by a simple act of justice.
As these distinctions are the last relics of slavery and barbarism
remaining in this state, we ask that it may be removed from betw-
een us and the light that we may be able to give our Children
as wide and comprehensive an education as is accorded to others.
We therefore respectfully ask you honorable body, as to amen
the laws relating to the public schools, as to provide for the admiss-
ion of all the Children, irrespective of color, in the schools, for which
their qualifications fit them. We only ask for equal and exact justice.

And for this we will ever pray.

Gentlemen Ladies

12 names 37 names

The petition of
John Hawson
Francis Jackson
and 372 others asking
for equal school

--- January 29 1864
Received read and referred to Committee
on Education

Original Format



Rhode Island. General Assembly, "Petition for Equal School Rights," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #73, (accessed August 24, 2019).