In 1845, 105 black Nantucketers signed and sent the following petition to the General Court in Boston:
"The undersigned inhabitants of Nantucket respectfully present that they have between thirty five and forty children who are deprived of their right to equal instruction with other children in our Common Schools; and that they can have no instruction from the town, unless they submit to insults, and outrages upon their rights, quite equal to being imprisoned in a South Carolina jail; and for no other reason but…color.
They have applied to some of the first (best) lawyers in the Commonwealth, and are informed that they can get no redress, through the law as it is, they therefore pray that there may be some enactment, which will protect all children in their equal rights to the schools, against the majorities of School Committees, or of those who assemble in town meetings."
Quoted in African Americans on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket: A History of People, Places and Events, ed. by Karen and Robert Hayden (Select Publications, 1999).
A few months later, the Massachusetts legislature passed House Bill 45, "An Act Concerning Public Schools, Remedy for the unlawful exclusion of a child from a public school institution." Any child, unlawfully excluded from public school instruction, in this Commonwealth, shall recover damages therefore, in an action on the case, to be brought in the name of said child, by his guardian or next friend, in any court of competent jurisdiction to try the same, against the city or town by which public school instruction is supported.
General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1836 to 1853.