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Eunice Ross

In 1840, Eunice Ross (1824-1895), a student of Anna Gardner at the African School, was denied admission to the Nantucket High School by vote of a town meeting because of her race. After five years of rancorous debate in the community, Edward J. Pompey and 104 other black citizens, including members of the Ross family, submitted a petition to the Massachusetts State House requesting that admission to public schools be extended to all children. Ross submitted her own eloquent petition stating her competence to be admitted. Such legislation eventually passed, but the Nantucket community continued to debate the "vexed question" of integration, and it was not until 1847 that children from the African School were admitted to Nantucket High School. Little is known of Eunice Ross's life after this period, but there is mention of her predilection for French literature. She lived to the age of 71 and died in her home on York Street, close to her former school.

This embroidered narrative was inspired by "Blackbird," a Lennon-McCartney song with lyrics Paul McCartney wrote to encourage and empower a black woman during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It also makes use of an "anti-slavery alphabet" printed in a 16-page booklet for the Anti-Slavery Fair in Philadelphia, 1847.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.


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