Gallaudet University to Honor 23 Black Deaf Students, Four Black Teachers and Their Descendants From 1950s-era Segregated Kendall School Division II for Negroes

Students and teachers at Kendall School Division II for Negroes, 1950s

Gallaudet University, the world’s premier institution for deaf and hard of hearing students, will hold a graduation ceremony to honor the 23 Black Deaf students and four Black teachers of the Kendall School Division II for Negroes. Kendall School Division II was a segregated private elementary school for Black Deaf students that operated on Gallaudet’s campus from 1952 to 1954.

Saturday, July 22, 2023
1:00 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time

Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University
Swindells Auditorium
800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002

At this graduation ceremony, the students and their descendants will receive high school diplomas conferred by Gallaudet’s Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. This event, hosted by Gallaudet’s Center for Black Deaf Studies, is a significant part of Gallaudet University’s ongoing commitment to acknowledge and own its past racial and educational injustices.

From 1898 to 1905, Kendall School, a K-12 program on the campus of what is now Gallaudet University, enrolled and educated Black students. In 1905, white parents complained about the integration of races, and Black Deaf students were transferred to the Maryland School for the Colored Blind and Deaf-Mutes in Baltimore or to the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia. This eliminated altogether the presence of Black students at Kendall School.

Several decades later, Louise B. Miller, a District of Columbia resident and the hearing mother of four children, three of whom were deaf, asked that her oldest son Kenneth be allowed to attend Kendall School. Her request was denied because Kenneth was Black. In 1952, Mrs. Miller, joined by the parents of five other Black Deaf children, filed and won a class action suit against the District of Columbia Board of Education for the right of Black Deaf children like her son Kenneth to attend Kendall School.

The court ruled that Black Deaf students could not be sent outside the state or district to obtain the same education that white students were provided. This led to – rather than the acceptance of Black Deaf students into Kendall School outright – the construction on the Gallaudet campus of the segregated Kendall School Division II for Negroes, an inferior building with fewer resources than those made available to white students. In 1954, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka made school segregation illegal across the nation, and Kendall School Division II for Negroes closed.