The First American Women's Rights Convention takes place in Seneca Falls, New York.

Benjamin Roberts, a free black living in Boston, attempts to enroll his daughter Sarah in the public schools, but she is denied entrance because of her race. Roberts, joined by anti-slavery activist Charles Sumner sues the city, challenging its segregated school system. Anticipating arguments that would be made a century later, Roberts and Sumner argue that black schools have inferior resources to white schools and that segregation injures both races. They contend that segregation creates feelings of degradation among blacks and fosters prejudice in whites. The next year, in Roberts v. City of Boston, 59 Mass. 198 (1849), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts rejects Roberts' and Sumner's arguments. The Court holds that they had not proven that the black school was inferior. The Court offers a separate but equal rationale for segregated schools, reasoning that "prejudice, if it exists, is not created by law, and probably cannot be changed by law." Chief Justice Shaw's opinion is later cited by Justice Brown in his opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson.