Kentucky School for the Deaf

Remember in an earlier post I was asking you to guess where I was go to, and who I was talking about? My answer is this Kentucky School for the Deaf! Here’s the video about a brief history of KSD – length of video is 06:33. ♥️

[Video transcript]

Adonia: Hello, I’m here in Danville, KY, where Kentucky School for the Deaf first opened right over there! How did it all started? An offical named General Elias Barbee had a Deaf 24-year-old daughter named Lucy Barbee and there was no formal Deaf education or Deaf school to be found for her. So the father proposed a bill to establish KY school for the Deaf (December 18th, 1822). It was approved and the school for the Deaf was opened (April 10th, 1823). It was originally called the Yellow House. (It was later relocated to a different place.)

Adonia: Anyway, it so happened that a couple who first supervised the school were John R. Kerr and his wife (John was the superintendent, his wife was the matron). DeWitt Clinton Mitchell, a hearing teacher who used to teach at New York School for the Deaf – Fanwood, was hired to teach at Kentucky School for the Deaf in 1823. He continued teaching until the board of trustees decided they don’t like him, and in 1824 they brought in John A. Jacobs, a local Kentuckian, who had studied at Centre College not too far from here and had some experiences in teaching at the school before. He was sent to American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut (riding on a horse for hours from Kentucky to Connecticut) to learn from Laurent Clerc how to teach Deaf children through signing (reading and writing). Jacobs had planned to stay at American School for the Deaf for three years, but due to dwindling budget the board of trustees had allocated for Jacobs’ training needs, they had Jacobs return to Kentucky after only one year (he had to ride the same horse all the way back home too!)

Adonia: While Jacobs was at American School for the Deaf, Mitchell had continued to teach at Kentucky School for the Deaf. Mitchell later resigned in November 1825, and went back to teach in New York. Why was it important to mention DeWitt C. Mitchell? Because he was the first teacher hired to teach at Kentucky School for the Deaf. He later married – this is important – a Deaf woman named Mary E. Rose. Who is she? I’ll tell you something about her…Mary Rose was one of the first Deaf students to enter American School for the Deaf School. She was close friends with Alice Cogswell (they were about same age and American SD was opened in 1817). When New York School for the Deaf – Fanwood was opened in 1818 Mary Rose – who was originally from New York – went to that school. And in a few short years, because she was quite smart, Rose graduated and later became one of the first two Deaf teachers at New York School for the Deaf-Fanwood. When DeWitt Clinton Mitchell returned to New York he and Mary E. Rose were married in 1827. But sadly in 1831 Dewitt Clinton Mitchell passed away, the same year another man (but younger) sharing the same name DeWitt Clinton Mitchell as the older man (who was involved in the efforts to allocate more money to New York School for the Deaf-Fanwood) died.

Adonia: Wow, Kentucky School for the Deaf has so many connections to people and to other Deaf schools! This Kentucky Deaf School is the first school for this State, but it was actually rented. The school has since moved to a new location, where it remains in operation to this day. Now you know all about Dewitt Clinton Mitchell, the first teacher of Kentucky School for the Deaf!

[Video transcript continues]

Adonia: Remember the Yellow House which was only rented? Well, it has been moved over here on its own property where Kentucky School for the Deaf is now located, residing on the South Second Street ever since to this day.

Adonia: That year 1885 a School for the Black Deaf was established not far from here, where it continued until 1959 when the Deaf Black students was intergrated into the classes with the rest of the students at the main Kentucky School for the Deaf; then in 1963 the segregation was done away, and the Deaf students, both white and black can attend the same classes, sleep in the same dorms and so forth. There was one problem; when the Black Deaf students should have graduated, they never received high school dipolmas due to still lingering bias toward skin color.

Adonia: In 2011, however, the KY school for the Deaf finally honored a group of approxiately 75 Black Deaf former students by bestowing them the belated dipolmas. Now this is so exciting and inspiring! Other Deaf schools, even now, still has not given some of the Deaf Black former students their dipolmas, Kentucky School for the Deaf is the only one that made up to Deaf Black former students by honoring them with their dipolmas. Wow. Hats off to Kentucky School for the Deaf!


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