Segregated Schools in Canandaigua

Excerpt from Preston E Pierce’s A Tour Guide to Black History Sites in Canandaigua, NY.

A mark of the turmoil brought by increasing debates about abolition, anti-abolition, and racism in Northern states in the 1840s-50s was the drive to allow the rise of political “nativism” and the establishment of the American, or “Know-Nothing” party. Supporters of that group opposed the acceptance of immigrants, Catholics, or African-Americans.

212 Park Street in 1980

As the result of a local petition to the state legislature, Chapter 291 of the Laws of 1852 granted the Village of Canandaigua permission to establish a “colored school.” It was passed on April 14, more than a month prior to the protest meeting reported by the newspaper. From that time on, “colored” children were not allowed to attend any other school in Canandaigua. 

Like segregation in West Avenue Cemetery, separation did not last long in local schools. In part, the plan failed because there were not enough white supporters of segregation. In part, it failed because the facilities established for “colored” children were inadequate as local papers pointed out. However, the biggest issues were summarized at the meeting reported in the newspaper. 

Segregated schools in Canandaigua ended in 1859, less than a decade after they were authorized by state law. In part, that reflected the fact that local schools had not been segregated for many years prior to 1852. The building  at 212 Park Street was sold and has been a home ever since.