Press \\ Press Release

PEM spotlights the ongoing fight for educational equality with its new exhibition

Released April 7, 2022

Let None Be Excluded: The Origins of Equal School Rights in Salem
On view April 23, 2022 through April 23, 2023

SALEM, MA – The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents an exhibition drawn from its Phillips Library collection that explores how the 19th century struggle for educational rights began in Salem and led to equal education advocacy and reform across America. Thanks to the heroic effort by Black youth activists, students and parents, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the first state to outlaw school committees from classifying and dividing students by race. Through petitions, letters, newspaper clippings and court documents that capture the impassioned activism of Sarah Parker Remond, Robert Morris and other important youth leaders, visitors can experience firsthand the words and actions that changed the course of our school systems and our nation and understand how this fight continues today. Let None Be Excluded: The Origins of Equal School Rights in Salem is on view at PEM from April 23, 2022 through April 23, 2023, and is co-curated by Dan Lipcan, PEM’s Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library, and Dr. Kabria Baumgartner, Northeastern University’s Dean's Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies and Associate Director of Public History.

In 19th-century Salem, the public school system was considered the city's crown jewel and a point of pride for many residents. Despite the system’s success, in 1834 the Salem school committee suddenly began to separate children by race and to confine Black students to the newly established Colored School. In response, a vocal and organized activist movement arose, advocating for equal and inclusive education. “As agents in their own education, these young leaders used spirited words and actions to spark the national equal school rights movement by tethering education rights to democracy and racial equality, a position that still holds strong to this day,” said Lipcan. “This exhibition empathetically demonstrates how young people can be a force of powerful and lasting change in society.”

Unknown artist. Robert Morris, mid 19th century photograph. © Social Law Library, Boston, MA

The first section of the exhibition, called Activists and Allies, looks at the key figures who authored editorials and petitions, spoke at organizational meetings and circulated petitions to local school committees and, eventually, to the Massachusetts state legislature. Another section looks at Black students and their teachers, orienting visitors to the equal school rights movement of Salem in the 1820s–1840s. Supporting documents espouse opinions from both opponents and proponents.

Photographer in the United States. Sarah Parker Remond, about 1865. Albumen print. Gift of Miss Cecelia R. Babcock. Phillips Library, Salem Streets Collection, PH322. Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

The exhibition benefited from a strong partnership with faculty and graduate students – Clare Nelson and Paul Martin – from Northeastern University’s Public History program, made possible by the generous support of the Spencer Foundation. Co-curator Kabria Baumgartner, who was a Malamy Fellow at the Phillips Library in 2018, wrote about the equal school rights movement in her recent book, In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum (New York University Press, 2019). “This moment of protest in Salem changed the course of history in the United States forever,” said Dr. Baumgartner. “Because of the brave and outspoken Black youth activists in the past who worked consistently to make sure they were not excluded from opportunities afforded white children, there is active, ongoing work on equitable education policy in Massachusetts today.”

Visitors will trace the story of the abolition of racially segregated public schools and the legislation that made it illegal in Massachusetts to classify students by race. An accompanying response station asks what changes visitors would like to see in education today and how they might successfully petition for change. “As in the rest of America, public schools in Salem are often met with intense scrutiny,” said Lipcan. “These powerful documents bring to life the words of impassioned youth and their supporters who inspire us to remember that we the people have the power and that these are our schools. So we must ask ourselves: what do we want them to be and what do we want them to do?”


PEM has teamed up with Quartex to share digital archival collections that celebrate and commemorate unique chapters in the history of Salem, MA. Concurrent to the opening of Let None Be Excluded, PEM will launch a collection of digitized exhibition documents and related materials for visitors to dig more deeply into the topic. The collection will go live to the public on April 25 at the following link:

The Phillips Library Digital Collections portal will be continually updated to include documents from the Salem Witchcraft Trials and collections such as the Winthrop Family Papers, Salem broadsides, images from the Great Salem Fire of 1914, and the Remond Family Papers, which include letters and papers concerning the Black businessmen and anti-slavery campaigners John Remond and his son Charles Lenox Remond.

High-resolution images are available upon request.

Share your impressions with us on social media using #PEMLetNone


  • Plan of the City of Salem, 1836, in The Salem Directory, and City Register (detail), 1837, Phillips Library, gift of Henry Wheatland, F74.S1 S2M.
  • Unknown artist. Robert Morris, mid 19th century photograph. © Social Law Library, Boston, MA
  • Photographer in the United States. Sarah Parker Remond, about 1865. Albumen print. Gift of Miss Cecelia R. Babcock. Phillips Library, Salem Streets Collection, PH322. Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

Let None Be Excluded: The Origins of Equal School Rights in Salem
is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum. The exhibition is made possible by the generosity of Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation. Additional support was provided by individuals who support the Exhibition Incubation Fund: Jennifer and Andrew Borggaard, James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, Kate and Ford O'Neil, and Henry and Callie Brauer. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

The health and safety of PEM’s staff and visitors is our highest priority. PEM has increased its safety protocols, including the frequency and intensity of its sanitation and disinfection efforts across the museum. Face coverings are encouraged for all visitors. To learn more, visit

In 1992, the Stephen Phillips Library of the Peabody Museum and the James Duncan Phillips Library of the Essex Institute merged to create the Phillips Library, a unique research institution with deep ties to local, regional, national, and international art, culture, history, and literature. Its holdings focus on rare books and manuscripts, including logbooks from Salem ships that traveled the world and important collections relating to China, India, Japan, and Korea. The library also preserves important documents from the history of Salem, Essex County, and the greater United States. Over the years, library collections have featured in and supported PEM exhibitions. Researchers rely on the Phillips Library to write dissertations, scholarly books and articles, and popular best-sellers. A series of changing exhibitions share these extraordinary collections to experience a glimpse into the breadth of the library’s holdings and the connections that can be made. The library public reading room in Rowley is open to the public.

Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time -- including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM's campus offers a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays, 10 am–5 pm, and Fridays 10 am–7 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit

Whitney Van Dyke | Director of Marketing & Communications | | 978-542-1828
Kristen Levesque | Exhibition Publicist | | 207-329-3090