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Is Separate Equal? The Sarah Roberts Case: Background information when reading The Great Abolitionist

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The Great Abolitionist by Stephen Puleo

The Great Abolitionist

Charles Sumner and the Fight for a More Perfect Union

by Stephen Puleo
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  • Apr 23, 2024
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Is Separate Equal? The Sarah Roberts Case

This article relates to The Great Abolitionist

Black-and-white portrait of attorney Robert Morris, leaning on a pillar At the age of four, when Sarah Roberts was ready for school, her father Benjamin was insistent that she have the best education. It was the late 1840s in Boston. Benjamin Roberts had been traumatized by educational segregation. It incubated shame within him as a young black boy to attend inferior schools with inadequate resources. He didn't want that for Sarah.

The first school that Roberts approached was the Phillips School. It was close to their Andover Street home. But Sarah was instantly denied because she didn't have a ticket of entrance. Tickets of entrance were only given to white students. Roberts was only allowed to enroll Sarah in the Smith School for colored children, which was in a black neighborhood. Black parents who felt similarly to Roberts had recently boycotted the Smith School and it had suffered a 40% drop in attendance.

Historian Stephen Puleo writes in The Great Abolitionist: Charles Sumner and the Fight for a More Perfect Union: "To get to the Smith ...

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