Education Justice in Action: Gallaudet’s Historic Recognition of Kendall II’s Students
PR Newswire In the historic grounds of Gallaudet University, a unique graduation ceremony is set to unfold. This renowned institution, celebrated globally as a forerunner in the education of deaf and hard of hearing students, gears up to honor a unique set of individuals from its past: the students and instructors at the segregated Kendall School Division II.
Kendall School Division II functioned as a separate private elementary institution specifically for Black Deaf students on the Gallaudet campus from 1952 to 1954. During the upcoming event, the achievements and contributions of twenty-three Black Deaf students and four Black instructors from this period will be recognized and commemorated.
This momentous event will be held on Saturday, July 22, 2023, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, at the Swindells Auditorium, located in the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University. During the ceremony, diplomas will be conferred by Gallaudet’s Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center to the descendants of the original students, thereby marking a significant moment in history.
The backdrop to this event is a complex and poignant tale of racial and educational inequities, a narrative that mirrors the broader social and political environment of the time. In the early 1950s, Louise B. Miller, a local resident and hearing mother of three deaf children, refused to accept this discrimination. Miller initiated a collective legal action filed against the Board of Education in the District of Columbia, advocating for her son Kenneth and other Black Deaf children’s right to education at Kendall School.
The pivotal ruling in Miller’s favor gave birth to the segregated Kendall School Division II for Negroes on the Gallaudet campus. Despite its formation, this institution was housed in an inferior building and was provided fewer resources than those allotted to white students. However, following the verdict of the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, by the Supreme Court in 1954, which declared school segregation illegal, the Kendall School Division II ceased its operations.
The upcoming graduation ceremony, expected to see the presence of survivors from Kendall School Division II and relatives of various late students and instructors, is not just a reckoning of past wrongs. It serves as an affirmation of Gallaudet University’s commitment to acknowledging and rectifying its historical racial and educational injustices.
The event will be graced by several notable figures, including Dr. Monique M. Chism of the Smithsonian Institution, in her capacity as Under Secretary for Education; Christopher D. Johnson, the acting President of the District of Columbia Black Deaf Advocates; and Zachary Parker, a member of the District of Columbia Council.
This ceremony signifies more than just an event; it stands as a beacon of Gallaudet’s ongoing commitment to equality and justice, and a tribute to the resilience and courage of the Black Deaf community. As applause fills the auditorium that day, it will not only resonate within its walls but will also echo into the past and reverberate into a future fostering greater understanding and inclusivity.
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