This Day in History

Feb. 15, 1848: Benjamin Roberts Filed the First School Desegregation Suit

Time Periods: 1800
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship, Education

On Feb. 15, 1848, Benjamin Roberts filed the first school desegregation suit after his daughter Sarah was barred from a public school based on her race in Boston.

Artwork by E. B. Lewis from the picture book, The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial.

The plaintiff’s attorneys were Robert Morris, one of the country’s first African-American lawyers, and Charles Sumner.

This was the first trial case about school segregation and indirectly related to the 1855 ban of segregated schools in all of the state of Massachusetts and the 1954 ban on segregated schools nationally.

Read about this historic case in Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America from Beacon Press and find related resources below.