Ellen Garrison Introduction

Ellen Garrison was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1823. Her home is now The Robbins House, Concord’s Museum of African American History. As a young adult, Ellen attended Concord public schools and along with her mother, Susan, she signed several civil rights petitions involving anti-slavery activity and the rights of Native Americans in the United States. Her activism began early, learning about racial discrimination, and at the age of 12, in 1835 she marched in a Concord parade hand-in-hand with her white schoolmate “beneath the gaze of curiosity, surprise, ridicule, and admiration.” After supporting anti-slavery causes in Boston in the 1840’s, Ellen taught in Rhode Island. In 1863, as Reconstruction efforts began in the South, she applied to teach formerly enslaved people, writing “I think it is our duty as a people to spend our lives in trying to elevate our own race.”


Almost a century before Rosa Parks, Ellen became one of the first African Americans in the United States to challenge the legitimacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. This Act gave African Americans in the United States citizenship as well as the fundamental right to sue in court. In May of 1866, Ellen walked into a Baltimore Train Station and was forcibly ejected for attempting to desegregate the waiting room. Ellen sued the station master. Although her court case was eventually dismissed, it is believed that Ellen’s lawsuit was a test case which helped to establish that African Americans had legal standing in court. Ellen went on to teach in Kansas before moving to Pasadena, California, where she died in 1892.


Ellen Garrison would be the first alumni of the Concord public schools and the first person of color to have a school named after them in Concord, Massachusetts. The choice of Ellen Garrison for the new Concord Middle School fits with Concord’s K-8 school naming policy that states that schools should be named after a person of educational interest or inspiration. We, the undersigned believe, that due to her courage, her dedication to education as well as being an alumna of Concord Public schools that a Concord school should be named in her honor.


Please note: Financial contributions are not required. They do not go to The Robbins House but to Change.org.