Prudence Crandall is composed largely of dialogue between Crandall and the other figures who are described within the book. Yates uses short, concise sentences to lend clarity to her account of how Crandall sought to reach her all-encompassing goal: to create a successful educational institution for African-American girls in Canterbury, Connecticut. The extensive use of dialogue, which does not encourage the inclusion of descriptive adjectives, helps to maintain a fast-paced narrative style. In addition, the chapters are short and important events in Crandall’s life occur frequently in the text. These factors make the biography attractive to young people who need to improve their reading skills.
Yates’s text accurately portrays the cultural attitudes of Crandall’s day. Thus, the African-American girls are referred to as “Negroes” and “colored people” in order to reflect the language of the historical period in which these events occurred. Yet Yates is careful in her use of these terms, employing them only as a part of the conversations of the figures and not in other sections of the text.
Prudence Crandall is peppered with several short references to Quaker beliefs, especially as they relate to Crandall’s attitudes and actions. Consequently, Yates constructs an image of her subject as a peaceful advocate of nonviolent change. Crandall’s role as a confrontational and strong-willed individual seems contrary to...
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This biography has become a classic for juvenile readers because of its easy-to-read format of brief sentences, large print, and short chapters. Yates teaches these readers the importance of having convictions and backing up those convictions with actions.
After Prudence Crandall, Yates continued to write about the early struggles of African Americans. Her most famous book was Amos Fortune, Free Man (1967), a young adult biography that takes place in the seventeenth century community of Jeffery, New Hampshire, and chronicles the life of a freed slave. This book was awarded the Herald Tribune Spring Festival award, the William White award, and the prestigious Newbery award.
Yates closes Prudence Crandall with documentation of the positive educational changes within Crandall’s lifetime. This biography, which was published in 1955 in the midst of controversy over the desegregation of American schools, no doubt struck a chord in many contemporary readers. Yates hoped to leave her young readers with the desire to update her documentation of the positive changes experienced by African Americans with new gains in civil rights. Therefore, Prudence Crandall can be used as a tool for children to understand African-American history.