My eldest brother had been admitted to one of the public schools in Salem, and at a much later period the three youngest children, including myself, were admitted to one of the public primary schools. All went on well for a time and the children generally treated us kindly, although we were very frequently made to feel that prejudice had taken root in their hearts. My sister and I remained in this school a very short time, passed the examination, and entered the high school for girls…. We had been in this school a very short time, when we were informed that the school committee contemplated founding a school exclusively for colored children.
They intended to found a school for young and old, advanced pupils and those less advanced: boys and girls were all to occupy but one room. The many disadvantages can be seen at a glance. It did not matter to this committee, who merely reflected the public sentiment of the community, in what district a colored child might live; it must walk in the heat of the summer, and the cold of winter, to this one school. But more than all this, it was publicly branding us with degradation. The child of every foreigner could enter any public school, while the children of native-born parents were to be thus insulted and robbed of their personal rights.
My father waited upon the school committee, and most earnestly protested against their proposed plan. We still continued to attend the school, but felt much anxiety. One morning, about an hour before the usual time for dismissing pupils, the teacher informed us that we would no longer be permitted to attend the school, that he had received orders from the committee to give us this information, and added, "I wish to accompany you home, as I wish to converse with your parents upon the matter." Some of the pupils seemed indignant, and two expressed much sympathy. I had no words for any one; I only wept bitter tears, then, in a few minutes, I thought of the great injustice practised upon me, and longed for some power to help me to crush those who thus robbed me of my personal rights.
Years have elapsed since this occurred, but the memory of it is as fresh as ever in my mind. We had been expelled from the school on the sole ground of our complexion. The teacher walked home with us, held a long conversation with our parents, said he was pained by the course taken by the school committee, but added it was owing to the prejudice against color which existed in the community. He also said we were among his best pupils, for good lessons, punctuality, etc. Add to this the fact that my father was a tax-payer for years before I was born, and it will need no extra clear vision to perceive that American prejudice against free-born men and women is as deep-rooted as it is hateful and cruel.
From "A Colored Lady Lecturer," in English Women's Journal, Vol. VII, June, 1861.