Class of '52 Review

Class of '52

Video Review 
by Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, 
Maryland School for the Deaf

© 2003

Class of '52
Produced by Gallaudet University
VHS, 43 minutes, open-captioned, voiceover, some portions in ASL

Available through:
Dept. of TV, Film, and Photography
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Ave. NE
Washington, D.C. 20002-3695
(202) 651-5115 (TTY/V)

Two years before “Brown vs. the Board of Education” began the long slow process of school desegregation in 1954, a group of black residents of the District of Columbia won the right for their deaf children to be educated at the Kendall School on the campus of Gallaudet University.  This video traces their story, beginning with the history of schools for the black deaf in the United States, which puts the triumph of the class of 1952 into a larger context.  Records show that Kendall itself admitted black deaf students and taught them in integrated classes up until 1904, when pressure from parents of the white students led Congress to transfer D.C.’s black deaf students to the Maryland School for the Colored Blind and Deaf in Baltimore.  Using interviews, archival photos, and letters, this presentation traces the efforts of a determined group of parents to secure an education close to home for their children, and their victory in the U.S. District Court based on a 1901 law that required that all “deaf-mutes of teachable age” living in the district receive an education at the Columbia Institution (Gallaudet), regardless of race.  The video also highlights the problems that the students and their parents and teachers faced once they were admitted to Kendall, from substandard facilities, to racism from the administration, to segregated PTAs.  A fascinating glimpse of a troubled time in history, and a detailed look at a story that has too often gone untold.

Return to Deaf History and Culture Video Reviews