Chapter 6 of Illusions of Equality continued…
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Students at the Texas School for the Deaf -- in a demonstration suggestive of the protests that would shut down Gallaudet University half a century later -- boycotted classes and marched to the state capitol to protest. In early 1939, members of the State Board of Control agreed to appoint a new superintendent.

The deaf community's victory, although remarkable, was not complete. Scott's ouster greatly lessened the climate of coercion, and his successor invited members of the Texas Association and parents to the school for consultation. Still, these substantive changes did not signal a rejection by state officials or hearing parents of oral-centered practices. Although Texas Association leaders supported the combined method and recommended that all teachers be fluent in sign language, they declined to press these positions, lest the focus be shifted away from Scott. Officials ended the physical and psychological abuses of the Scott administration, but there is no indication that hearing parents or officials agreed with deaf adults that pure oralist practices were themselves abusive.

In this period, along with their efforts to upgrade and transform education, deaf people continued to fight mightily to strengthen their individual and collective employment. Between 1928 and 1933, the nation's deaf working men and women had no effective national organization to help them. At the NAD, the administrations of Arthur Roberts (1923-30) and Franklin Smileau (1930-33) directed only cursory attention to employment issues for most deaf working men and women. The cost of this inattention was registered in the winter of 1930-31 when the organization offered no response to the summary exclusion of deaf men from a public work project that employed twenty thousand men in New York City. Amid these troubles, it was not surprising that some critics wondered if the venerable organization would survive the national economic downturn. Unlike the weakened NAD, the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf (NFSD) had a broad membership base with more than seven thousand members in 1931. (The NFSD is described in detail in chapter 7.) Yet Arthur Roberts, president from 1931 through 1951, kept the powerful organization centered upon its traditional fiduciary responsibilities and turned away any proposals to expand its mission. As the economy grew worse, anxious deaf workers turned to their local and state organizations.

Despite their limited means, deaf men and women organized through existing community institutions to help the neediest deaf adults and their families. Akron residents gave food and money through local social groups. Houston citizens channeled support through the NFSD branch and churches with deaf congregations. New Jersey NAD members gave food and coal to deaf residents. Still, these efforts did little to stem the unemployment that stymied increasing numbers of deaf adults. By 1932, for example, more than 40 percent of three hundred deaf people surveyed in Maryland were unemployed. By the spring of 1933, deaf citizens, like their hearing peers, turned to the newly elected president for assistance. Next Page

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