History Through Deaf Eyes – Desegregated Schools

“When we were moved from the Black school on Madison Street to the Arkansas School campus, the white house mother didn’t know how to take care of Black hair, she made us shampoo every day and my hair went back!”

~ Lynda Carter, Student at the segregated Madison School and then the Arkansas School for the Deaf and pictured below in pigtails

Ten Black Deaf female pupils in dresses

Courtesy of Lynda Carter

Because of racial segregation in Arkansas, African American deaf students were relocated from the campus of the Arkansas School for the Deaf in Little Rock, to the Madison School (right) a few miles away. In the 1960s they returned to the main campus.

Schools for deaf students in the South like other public schools were racially segregated. Some states had separate schools, such as the Oklahoma Industrial Institution for the Deaf, Blind, and Orphans of the colored race, while others had segregated buildings on one campus.

Although these schools were generally underfunded and overcrowded, graduates often had fond memories of their school years. Desegregation for deaf students came in the 1960s and 1970s. For deaf children, desegregation often meant sharing not only a classroom, but a dormitory.

White teacher at the blackboard teaching Black Deaf pupils in their classroom.

Posing for the camera, this teacher and students from the Kentucky School for the Deaf show their lessons for the day.

Black teacher doing speech training to five Black Deaf pupils as they wear headphones in unison

At Kendall School, on the Gallaudet campus in Washington, D.C., African American and white students were taught in separate buildings and had segregated dormitories. This 1954 photo shows Kendall School students receiving oral training.

Gallaudet University Archives