Events

Deaf students received their diplomas 70 years after finishing school!

Is it possible to receive a diploma only 70 years after finishing school? Unfortunately, yes. Join us for a film in sign language about African American deaf students in the United States

Is it possible to receive a diploma 70 years after finishing school? Unfortunately, yes. At least 24 African American deaf students, who in the early 1950s attended a separate school on the grounds of Gallaudet University in Washington, never received high school diplomas.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Racial Segregation in the USA

In the USA, until the 1960s, there was what is known as racial segregation. Whites and Blacks couldn’t use the same public toilets, park benches, churches, trains, places in restaurants, or schools. Exactly… schools.

School for the Deaf… White Deaf

In 1952, the families of several African American deaf children filed a lawsuit. The reason? Kendall School on the Gallaudet campus was the only elementary school in the city that deaf children could attend. But Black children couldn’t attend the school! African American deaf children were forced to go to schools in other cities.

The American District Court issued a ruling in favor of the African American families. The court stated that African American deaf students should not be sent to other cities to receive the same education as white students. In 1954, the US Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional.

Inferior Education for Black Deaf

However, this did not fully solve the problem. African American deaf students were mainly taught vocational subjects, not academic ones, so they were not prepared for college. Plus, as mentioned at the beginning of the film, many African American deaf students never received high school diplomas.

Diploma for Black Deaf School Graduates After 70 Years!

And now, on July 22, 2023, after approximately 70 years, they received their diplomas! Of course, many of them are no longer alive, so the diplomas were awarded to their families.

Is there a point in awarding diplomas after so many years? Certainly, yes. While diplomas themselves no longer hold such value, as they did at the moment of graduation – they are no longer a ticket to starting college or securing a better job. However, for the students who are still alive, it is certainly a feeling of justice after all these years. One of them said that he will finally be able to step onto the stage and formally receive his diploma – experience this wonderful event. On the other hand, for the university itself, it holds immense value as well. In a statement, Gallaudet University wrote: The event “is a significant part of Gallaudet University’s ongoing commitment to acknowledge and own its past racial and educational injustices.”

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