Chapter 6 of Illusions of Equality continued…
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Across the South, educational facilities for African American deaf students were poorly funded, if available at all. In Louisiana, for example, there was no school for deaf African Americans until 1938. Th situation was even more perilous for African American women, whose status was scarcely acknowledged by educators. Given these constraints, most African American deaf women were consigned to work as domestic helpers or unskilled laborers.

Ultimately, the status of vocational programs could not be separated from the ongoing conflict over communication methods. As the national economic downturn forced administrators to reduce their budgets, deaf leaders charged that oralist practices dangerously undercut vital vocational programs and the very standing of students. Warren Smaltz, the leader of the Pennsylvania Society for the Advancement of the Deaf, claimed that oralist administrators engaged in a "conspiracy of silence" regarding their failures. Norman Scarvie, a vocational instructor at Iowa's residential school, was equally adamant. He charged that school officials neglected the "70 percent of our boys and girls who graduate out the back door."

Irreconcilable differences continued to separate oralist administrators and deaf adults. Among the deaf community's activists, Roy Conkling, publisher of the independent newspaper American Deaf Citizen, may have been the decade's most persistent and prescient critic of oralist practices. A graduate of the Ohio School for the Deaf and an alumnus of Gallaudet College, the undaunted Conkling wrote under the pen name Surdus Junius or "deaf warrior," to directly challenge the state's right to suppress sign language and mandate pure oral methods. The suppression of sign language, the ouster of deaf teachers, and the imposition of oral methods, he charged, had created "slave conditions" from which deaf adults would eventually liberate themselves.

As in previous decades, deaf leaders challenged oralist practices and administrators at schools across the country. In Texas, Idaho, Virginia, Georgia, and Montana, the efforts of activists to defend sign language and combined methods or to halt the summary dismissal of deaf teachers met with limited success. The Texas campaign merits examination for its successes as well as its failures. On the one hand, Lone Star activists gained widespread, perhaps unprecedented, sup- port from both hearing and deaf adults in their politically sophisticated drive against the coercive superintendent of the state residential school. On the other hand, they were unable to muster broad support for their more compelling claim that the suppression of sign language undercut the intellectual development of children and often required coercive measures to be enforced.

Deeply upset after meeting with students at the Texas School for the Deaf in the winter of 1937, leaders of the Texas Association of the Deaf initiated a campaign against Superintendent T. M. Scott. Next Page

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