In 1846, 5-year-old Sarah Roberts was beginning school. Because she was Black, Sarah would have to walk past five schools to reach her all-Black school. Feeling that this was not right, her father, Benjamin, took her to the first school and tried to enroll her. She was denied. He then took her to each of the other four schools. But at each school, she was denied admission. Sarah’s father sued the city of Boston. In 1849, her case reached the Massachusetts State Supreme Court where her lawyer, the abolitionist Charles Sumner, argued:
The school is the little world in which the child is trained for the larger world of life, beginning there those relations of Equality which the constitution and the laws promise to all. I conclude that there is but one kind of public school, free to all . . . excluding none, comprehending all.