Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Notes from the Field: The West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (WVSDB) in Romney, WV

The West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (WVSDB), originally uploaded by Edu-Tourist. Image note: Photograph, taken at night, of the West Virginia historical marker located at the entrance to the WVSDB campus. The marker reads: "Established, 1870. The Classical Institute was donated by the Romney Literary Society as the initial building unit. Co-educational school giving academic and vocational training to the State's deaf and blind youth."

While returning from vacation with family in the Ohio Valley, I had the opportunity to visit the Hampshire County Public Library and briefly view the grounds of this distinguished West Virginia institution. Amongst the interesting and instructive stories attached the school is the life of one of the school's most successful graduates, Ernest Hairston.

By the early twentieth century, there two institutions, for 'white' and 'colored' deaf and blind youth in the state of West Virginia. As a result of the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education, the students of the West Virginia School for Colored Deaf and Blind (located in Institute, near Charleston, WV) were transferred to WVSDB in Romney. One of the students transferred, Ernest Hairston, went on to score at the top of his class at WVSDB, receiving encouragement from his English teacher to rethink his intentions(driven by the largely vocations curriculum at WVSCDB) to become a barber. Harston went on receive his Bachelor Degree in Education from Gallaudet College (now University), his Masters Degree in Administration and Supervision is from California State University at Northridge, and a doctorate in Special Education Administration from Gallaudet University. He is currently Education Research Analyst at the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).
Sources:Ernest Hairston and Linwood Smith (1983) Black and Deaf in America: Are we that different (Silver Spring, Md.: T. J. Publishers).
Glenn B. Anderson and Katrina R. Miller (2004/2005) 'Appreciating diversity through stories about the lives of Deaf people of color,' American Annals of the Deaf 149(5):375-83, profile on p. 378.

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