Harris Sisters Month at Otis Library


Otis Library will be hosting a series of programs in April, 2019 to celebrate the Harris sisters, Norwich natives and students at Prudence Crandall’s school for young African-American women from 1833 – 1834. The umbrella theme for the month is student advocacy.

Prudence Crandall is justifiably celebrated in Connecticut as the State Heroine. Less recognized are the black students who assumed enormous risk to receive an elite education. Indeed, the stimulus to the establishment of the academy was the repeated requests of Sarah Harris to take classes at the then all-white school. Sarah started taking classes in 1832; the resulting withdrawal of the white students from the academy and subsequent establishment of an all-black girls' school in 1833 constitute a remarkable chapter in the annals of abolitionist history.  Sarah Harris and her sister, Mary, were key in this brave, transformative effort.

 Throughout the month of April, items on loan from the Prudence Crandall Museum will be on display in the Otis Library atrium display cases. 

 On Friday, April 5, from 6pm – 8pm in the Children’s Department, the library will host the opening of the student art exhibit “How Can I Make The World A Better Place?”Children from pre-school through fifth grade will exhibit art – paintings, drawings, collage, and assemblage – that illustrates this theme. The exhibit will be on display throughout the month of April.

On Saturday, April 13, 10am – 11:30 am, the Norwich Historical Society will officially launch the Walk Norwich Freedom Trail.  Please join us as we explore a largely untold piece of Norwich’s history in the Jail Hill Historic District.  This walk is 1.5 hours, 1.5 miles, is strenuous and has some very steep hills   It will begin at City Hall, David Ruggles Courtyard, 100 Broadway, in Norwich. Free parking is available at City Hall Garage.

The New London County Historical Society is sponsoring a lecture on Frances Caulkins by Nancy Steenburg, PhD, on Saturday, April 20, at 1pm in Otis Library’s Community Room.  Nancy will be speaking about Caulkins’s life and work in Norwich, but more specifically about her involvement in the abolition movement in Norwich, where she was the first president of the Norwich Female Anti-Slavery Society.

On Wednesday, April 24, at 6pm, Norwich City Historian Dale Plummer will give a talk entitled “The Harris Family After Canterbury: The Later Life of the Harris Sisters.”  This event will take place in the Community Room.

All programs are free and open to the public. No registration required.  Sign language interpretation will be available if requested one week prior to each event. Descriptive tours of the exhibit will also be available upon request. Please contact Elanah Sherman at 860-614-7200 or by e-mail at elanahs@gmail.com for interpretation or descriptive tours.

These events are sponsored by The Friends of Otis Library and are free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Julie at (860) 889-2365, ext. 128.  Otis Library is located at 261 Main Street in Norwich and is accessible to people with disabilities.