Youngsters of Louise B. Miller Look Again on Her Advocacy for Black Deaf College students

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Two years earlier than colleges grew to become desegregated nationwide, Louise B. Miller and different native mother and father fought a courtroom battle on behalf of her son Kenneth Miller and 5 different Black Deaf college students who had been denied admission into the Kendall College for the Deaf, positioned on the campus of what’s now referred to as Gallaudet College in Northeast.

Even after the U.S. District Courtroom in D.C. dominated in Miller’s favor, the Kendall College relegated Kenneth Miller, his friends, and greater than a dozen different Black Deaf youths to Kendall Division II College for Negroes, a separate faculty constructing the place Black Deaf college students discovered from a wholly totally different curriculum below dismal circumstances for 2 years.

Regardless of Kendall College and Kendall Division II College for Negroes finally turning into one, neither Kenneth Miller nor his Black Deaf friends obtained their highschool diplomas as did their white classmates. To proper this flawed, Gallaudet College lately honored the members of what has now turn into referred to as the Kendall 24. Throughout a ceremony,  Gallaudet’s Laurent Clerc Nationwide Deaf Schooling Heart conferred their highschool diplomas. 

Along with Kenneth Miller, the next individuals obtained honors, a few of them posthumously: Mary Arnold; Janice Boyd Ruffin; Irene Brown; Darrell Chatman; Robbie Cheatham; Dorothy Howard Miller; Robert Lee Jones; Richard King Jr.; Rial Loftis; Deborah Moton; William Matthews; Donald Mayfield; Robert Milburn; Willie Moore Jr.; Clifford Ogburn; Diana Pearson Hill; Doris Richardson; Julian Richardson; Charles Robinson; Christine Robinson; Norman Robinson; Barbara Shorter; and Dorothy Watkins Jennings. 

As Kenneth Miller’s youthful sister Carol Miller recalled, the July 22 ceremony at Gallaudet’s Kellogg Convention Heart opened up a flood of feelings in her older brother that he saved bottled up all through his childhood and adolescence.  

“I wished to be joyful. On the identical time, there was an underlying anger [at not] understanding why one thing like this needed to occur like that within the first place and why it took so lengthy to be reconciled,” mentioned Carol Miller, the Miller household historian who spoke to The Informer on behalf of Kenneth Miller. 

“I’ve by no means seen my brother react emotionally so strongly, aside from when his mom [Louise B. Miller] died,” she added. “It was distressing to know that he had been holding that in all of those years and that one thing like this could make an influence on him.” 

A Mom’s Battle for Fairness

Lots of of individuals, together with Miller and 5 different dwelling members of the Kendall 24, together with their relations, and supporters of their deceased classmates attended the historic ceremony.

Others in attendance that day included relations of Mary E. Britt, Rubye S. Frye, Robert Robinson, and Bessie Z. Thornton, 4 Black academics from Kendall Division II College for Negroes. 

D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5); Dr. Monique M. Chism, the Smithsonian Institute’s below secretary for training; and Christopher D. Johnson, president of the D.C. Space Black Deaf Advocates additionally made appearances. 

In a proclamation, Gallaudet’s board of trustees declared July 22 as “Kendall 24 Day” and apologized for the college’s position in “perpetuating the historic inequity, systemic marginalization, and the grave injustice dedicated in opposition to the Black Deaf group.” 

The board additionally dedicated to constructing a memorial to Louise B. Miller and others who fought on behalf of Black Deaf kids. A fundraising marketing campaign for that memorial, named Louise B. Miller Pathways and Backyard, will begin throughout the coming months. 

“I hope the memorial is a spot somebody can stroll via and depart behind all of the issues that individuals are doing and saying [to] have a dialog about what is definitely necessary on this life, like the way you deal with different individuals,” Carol Miller mentioned. “When you end strolling via it, you may get to an understanding. When individuals undergo this memorial, I hope it’s for self-reflection.” 

Upon studying that their son Kenneth Miller was Deaf, the Millers started looking for the suitable faculty setting. In 1946, Louise B. Miller, a spouse and mom of 4, began writing letters to the D.C. Board of Schooling and assembly with assistant superintendents about her ongoing request for a college that Kenneth Miller might attend regionally. 

Kenneth Miller, then 5 years previous, had Carol Miller as his solely youthful sibling. All through the years, the Miller household grew with the births of Gerald and Justin Miller, each of whom had been additionally Deaf. 

Kendall College, which was initially built-in, grew to become segregated on the behest of white mother and father within the early Twentieth century. On the time, the District entered right into a contract with the Maryland College for the Blind in Overlea, Maryland to teach the District’s Black Deaf kids. Black mother and father might ship their kids there without spending a dime, or elsewhere at their very own expense. 

The Miller household initially thought of enrolling Kenneth Miller within the Maryland College for the Blind. Nonetheless, as proven in handwritten notes obtained by The Informer, the Miller household skilled disappointment and concern after assembly employees and touring the college grounds. They ended up enrolling Kenneth Miller within the Pennsylvania College for the Deaf in Mt. Ethereal, Pennsylvania, paying  $1,350 — the equal of $13,000 at this time — per yr for the three years he attended. 

In 1951, Louise B. Miller, different mother and father and the American Veterans Committee testified earlier than the D.C. Board of Schooling in demand of Kendall College’s integration. A yr later, these mother and father — Luke Richardson, Minnie Mayfield, Clyde Howard, Berth Ogburn, David and Mattie Hood — joined Miller in submitting a class-action lawsuit in opposition to the D.C. Board of Schooling. 

The regulation corporations of Cobb, Howard & Hayes and John Fauntleroy represented Miller and the opposite mother and father in what would turn into referred to as Miller vs. D.C. Board of Schooling. Within the lawsuit, the mother and father argued that their kids — Kenneth Miller, Robert Jones, William Matthews, Donald Mayfield, Irene Brown and Doris Richardson — had the precise to attend the identical native faculty as their white friends. 

The U.S. District Courtroom dominated within the mother and father’ favor. Nonetheless, that didn’t cease Kendall College from sustaining the established order for an additional two years.  

Miller, Jones, Matthews, Mayfield, Brown, Richardson and the 18 different Black Deaf college students who joined them on that campus in 1952 attended what grew to become referred to as Kendall Division II College for Negros. They gathered in makeshift lodging to attend lessons separate from their white friends earlier than later shifting right into a separate facility that maintained segregated instruction. 

Louise B. Miller continued writing letters to the D.C. Board of Schooling, offering particulars about what she described as the numerous useful resource hole between Kendall College and Kendall Division II College for Negroes. 

After Brown vs. Board of Schooling, a landmark faculty desegregation case gained partially by George E. C. Hayes, a associate at Cobb, Howard & Hayes, Black Deaf college students and white Deaf college students obtained their training at Kendall College. By the point he accomplished his research at Kendall College, Kenneth Miller had been attending lessons with Black and white classmates for at the very least 5 years. 

Upon his commencement in 1960 nonetheless, Kenneth Miller wouldn’t have a highschool diploma conferred unto him. Three years later, Louise B. Miller handed away. 

Gerald Miller and Justin Miller additionally attended Kendall College. As had been the case with Kenneth Miller, neither Gerald nor Justin Miller obtained their highschool diplomas upon finishing this system.

After leaving Kendall College, Gerald Miller took and handed the civil service take a look at for employment within the U.S. Geological Survey as a cartographic technician. As he grew older, so did his appreciation for his mom’s efforts to combine Kendall College. In 2013, Gerald Miller launched Black Deaf Senior Residents of America, a company that goals to construct solidarity amongst Black Deaf seniors and advance causes of significance to this demographic. 

Gerald Miller mentioned he noticed the urgent want for his group earlier this summer time whereas attending a conference hosted by Deaf Seniors of America in Hollywood, Florida. He recounted seeing, out of the a whole lot who attended, lower than two dozen Black Deaf seniors on the conference. 

One other level of rivalry that Gerald Miller identified involved the lack of know-how amongst Black Deaf seniors about his mom’s legacy. He cited monetary constraints positioned on Black seniors that forestall them from collaborating in actions associated to the historical past of the late Louise B. Miller. He additionally positioned blame on Deaf Seniors of America for failing to prioritize and develop its Black senior constituency. 

In advancing his trigger for better illustration of Black Deaf seniors within the advocacy area, Gerald Miller mentioned he all the time retains his mom on the entrance of his thoughts. 

“The extra I appeared into my mother’s historical past, [the more] I noticed her because the equal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Gerald Miller mentioned. “Every part she has accomplished has impressed me to assist the Black Deaf senior group. I’m honoring her legacy.”

Ongoing Efforts to Increase Alternatives for Black Deaf College students 

Over the previous three years, Gallaudet has made strides in its range, fairness and inclusion efforts with the installment of Dr. Elizabeth Moore, a school member and three-time alumna, as chief range officer.  

By the point Gallaudet’s Heart for Black Deaf Research first opened in 2020, 23 members of the Kendall 24 had solely been acknowledged with a well-hidden on-campus plaque bearing their names and people of their academics. 

With the six surviving members of Kendall 24 coming into or already of their 80s, Dr. Carolyn McCaskill mentioned she and her colleagues grew to become hard-pressed to gather their pictures and oral histories to get a better sense of the historic Black Deaf expertise through the mid-Twentieth century. 

During the last a number of weeks, the Heart for Black Deaf Research has established contact with the relations of different former Black Deaf Kendall college students. 

McCaskill, a Gallaudet worker of almost 40 years and founding director of the Heart for Black Deaf Research, mentioned the commencement ceremony, proclamation and impending memorial got here out of discussions that she and her colleagues had concerning the untold variety of Black Deaf college students who by no means obtained their diplomas. 

McCaskill, a three-time Gallaudet alumna in her personal proper and the second Black Deaf girl to obtain a doctorate on the college, mentioned she empathized with the Kendall 24. She recounted her encounters with racial segregation, particularly her enrollment into what was then the Alabama College for the Negro Deaf throughout her childhood. 

For her, such experiences impressed her scholarship concerning the preservation of Black American Signal Language. 

In terms of the Kendall 24, McCaskill mentioned that their tales reinforce the necessary position that Gallaudet’s Heart for Black Deaf Research performs in correcting the wrongs dedicated in opposition to Black Deaf individuals. 

“The Kendall 24 skilled discrimination, oppression and racial inequity in a wide range of conditions,” McCaskill mentioned. “They didn’t get their justice and plenty of of them left faculty due to the frustration they'd with poor training. They had been solely in a position to get meager jobs. Not one in every of them went to school. We wished these college students to know that they'd price.”


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