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<Blind, Visually Impaired>

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Bates, Susie Sweat
Birth Year : 1947
Susie Bates was born in Richmond, KY. She is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University with a B.S. in Speech Pathology and Audiology. Bates taught at the Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville, KY, from 1980-1990. She was the first African American at the school to teach daily speech classes in the classroom setting. She also developed a curriculum of basic, everyday living skills for low-functioning deaf students, including teaching the students about the causes of deafness and blindness and providing them with a means of communication. Bates was also the cheerleading coach during football season. For more information contact Susie Bates at
Subjects: Education and Educators, Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky, Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky / Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky

Darby, (Blind) Teddy
Birth Year : 1906
Death Year : 1975
Born Theodore Roosevelt Darby in Henderson, KY, he was a blues singer and guitarist who performed in Chicago in the 1930s but was most known for performing in St. Louis. His music was recorded between 1929-1937. As a younger man he did time in a reform school and workhouse for bootlegging. He was a long time associate of Peetie Wheatstraw. He eventually lost his sight to glaucoma. For more see The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3rd ed., edited by C. Larkin; and St. Louis Blues Musicians. View the image and listen to Blind Teddy Darby - Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues 1929 on YouTube.

Subjects: Migration North, Migration West, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Henderson, Henderson County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois / St. Louis, Missouri

Early Schools for Negro Deaf and Blind Children
Start Year : 1884
In 1884, the Kentucky School for Negro Deaf was established in Danville, KY, as a division of the Kentucky Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb. The Colored Department was managed by Morris T. Long, William J. Blount, Frances Barker, and Mabel Maris. The first African American student, admitted in 1885, was 25 year old Owen Alexander from Owenton, KY; he remained at the school for one year. He had become deaf at the age of 3 after having scarlet fever. The Kentucky Institute for the Education of the Negro Blind was located in Louisville, KY, in 1886. Both schools are listed in Adjustment of School Organization to Various Population Groups, by R. A. F. McDonald [full view available via Google Book Search]. For more about the early years of the Danville school, see volume 1 of Histories of American Schools for the Deaf, 1817-1893, edited by E. A. Fay. See also G. Kocher, "Diplomas bring tears of joy - blacks who attended from 1930 to 1955 get overdue awards," Lexington Herald-Leader, 08/04/2011, p.A1. See photo image of the Kentucky School for the Blind Colored Department Building at the American Printing House for the Blind website. See also entries for African American Schools in the NKAA Database.

Subjects: Education and Educators, Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky, Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky / Owenton, Owen County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

The Family of Jack and Sallie Foster [Blyew v. United States]
Birth Year : 1868
In Lewis County, KY, during the summer of 1868, five members of the Foster family were attacked by John Blyew and George Kennard, who used a carpenter's ax and some other bladed tool to hack at the bodies of the family members. Jack, his wife Sallie, and his grandmother Lucy Armstrong, who was blind, were killed outright. Richard, the Foster's 16 year old son, took shelter under his father's body. He later regained consciousness and crawled 300 yards to a neighbor's house for help. Richard died two days later. The two youngest children were the only survivors: Laura Foster, 8 years old, hid and was unharmed, while her 6 year old sister, Amelia, was hacked about the head but lived. A posse was formed and Blyew and Kennard were arrested and indicted on four counts of murder. The court hearings began October 26, 1868, with the following evidence presented: Richard Foster's dying statements, Laura Foster's written testimony [it was illegal in Kentucky for African Americans to give testimony against whites during criminal proceedings], and the testimony of those who investigated the crimes. One of the reasons given for the murders was retaliation for the Civil War and the potential for another war about African Americans. The trial was held in U.S. Court for the District of Kentucky before Judge Bland Ballard. The prosecuting attorney was Benjamin H. Bristow, who would later become the first U.S. Solicitor General and serve as Secretary of the Treasury in the Grant Administration before becoming a Republican presidential nominee in 1876. Two years prior to the Foster family murders, Congress had passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which gave jurisdiction to federal courts for all causes, civil and criminal, affecting persons who are denied or cannot enforce any of the rights secured to them in the courts or judicial tribunals of the state or locality, where they may be. The understanding of the provisions of the act was the reason Blyew and Kennard were tried in a federal court. Their case was presented to an all-white jury [it was still illegal to have African American jurors in such cases in Kentucky]. None of the jury members were from Lewis County. Blyew and Kennard were found guilty and sentenced to hang. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as a Writ of Error. Blyew v United States was one of the first cases for the full court to analyze the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Kentucky Governor J. W. Stevenson called for a special legislative session, and funds were appropriated for use in the Blyew v United States case to hire the distinguished lawyer, Judge Jeremiah S. Black, to represent Kentucky's sovereign rights as a challenge to the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. It was determined by the governor and many of the Kentucky legislators that the 1866 Act exceeded the authority of Congress and was an unconstitutional intrusion of authority. The U.S. Supreme Court deliberated for more than a year before rendering a judgment on April 1, 1872, that reversed the convictions of Blyew and Kennard with a 5-2 majority. Prior to the decision, the Negro testimony law in Kentucky was repealed, and Blyew and Kennard were indicted and to be tried in the Lewis County Circuit Court in 1873. In Blyew's case, there was a hung jury, and the case was then to be prosecuted in federal court. But before the retrial could take place, Blyew escaped. In George Kennard's case, he was convicted and sentenced to hard labor for his natural life. He was pardoned by Governor Blackburn in 1885 due to his health. Kennard died of senility on April 5, 1923 in Carter County, KY, according to his death certificate. John Blyew was recaptured in 1890, and the Lewis County Circuit Court convicted and sentenced him to life in prison. Governor W. J. Worthington pardoned Blyew in 1896, and Blyew, his wife Emma, and granddaughter Mary, were residing in Cincinnati, OH in 1900, according to the U.S. Federal Census. The surviving Foster sisters, Laura and Amelia, were taken in by a white family named Ruggles. It has been written that Laura, who was born around 1860, died of measles after living with the Ruggles for a few years, but according the U. S. Census, she was with the Ruggles' family as a servant up to 1880. Amelia (1862-1936), who was described as having horrendous scars on her head, was single and remained in Lewis County doing housework up until 1934 when she became ill, according to her death certificate. For more see Blyew v. United States, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 581 (1871) [full-text at]; R. D. Goldstein, "Blyew: variations on a jurisdictional theme," Stanford Law Review, vol. 41, issue 3 (Feb. 1989), pp. 469-566; and Race, Law, and American Society, by G. J. Browne-Marshall.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Orphans and Orphanages in Kentucky, Court Cases, Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Lewis County, Kentucky

Gospel Troupers (Lexington, KY)
Start Year : 1952
The group, referred to as the Gospel Troupers or Troopers, was organized in 1952 with four women and three men. It was thought to be the first all-blind gospel chorus (Mrs. Jane Scott, the pianist-director, was sighted). The group members, who belonged to various churches, performed at festivals, schools, and church events to raise money for various charities in Lexington, KY. Members included Mrs. Jean Searcy Carter, who organized the group; her husband, Garfield Carter; and Hester and George Hanley. For more see "Blind Ky. Choristers Sing Gospel for Charity," in December 18, 1952 issue of Jet, p. 30 [available online with picture of group]; J. Hewlett, "George Hanley, blind musician, singer, dies at 85," Lexington Herald-Leader, 03/30/1988, Obituaries section, p. B4; and "Garfield Carter, Fayette vendor, singer dies at 87," Lexington Herald-Leader, 03/13/1997, Obituaries section, p. C2. Additional information provided by Margaret Miller of Lexington, KY, daughter of Mrs. Jane Scott.

Subjects: Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work, Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

O'Neal, Arnetta Black
Birth Year : 1910
Death Year : 1984
O'Neal was the first African American administrator at the Fayette County Central Office of Education. She became the coordinator of elementary language arts in 1965 and retired in 1975. O'Neal began her teaching career in Richmond, KY, and later taught at the segregated Douglass Elementary School in Lexington in 1937. She would become one of the first African American teachers at a previously all white elementary school. In the community, she was a girl scout leader, and chaired the board of the Bob W. Brown Housing for the Handicapped. She was also chair of the Trinity Baptist Church Blind Buddies Program. O'Neal was born in Madison County, the daughter of John and Viola Black; the family of eight lived on East Main Street in Richmond, KY, in 1920, according to the U.S. Federal Census. O'Neal was the wife of Damon S. O'Neal. She was a graduate of West Virginia State College [now West Virginia State University] and the University of Kentucky. For more see J. Hewlett, "Educator, volunteer Arnetta O'Neal dies," Lexington Herald-Leader, 03/10/1984, Obituaries section, p.D10.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Scouts (Boys and Girls), Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky, Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Stone, Kara L.
Birth Year : 1929
Death Year : 1995
Kara Stone was born in Richmond, KY, the daughter of J. Lynn Stone. She was a graduate of Richmond High School and Knoxville College. After teaching for a couple of years, she joined the WACs and spent three years in France. Stone returned to the U.S. and in 1960 graduated from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). After completing her master's degree, Stone taught at the Louisville School for the Blind; she taught in the Paris, KY, School System; and she was a history professor at EKU. While at EKU, Kara worked for Central University College (CUC) from 1967-1969. CUC was a unit inside EKU that handled only freshen and sophomore general education. In 1969, Kara Stone was hired as a faculty member at EKU. She was the first African American female teacher at EKU. A. B. Dunston completed Kara Stone's oral history in 1993; the recording is part of the African American Community of Madison County Oral History Project at Eastern Kentucky University Libraries. It has been mistakenly written that Kara Stone was the first African American to graduate from Eastern Kentucky University, and that error has been corrected in this entry. Though, she may have been the first African American woman to complete an EKU graduate program. For more information about Kara Stone, contact EKU Special Collections and Archives; see Who's Who Among African Americans, 1980-2004; and M. Bailey, "Richmond teacher has made a lasting impression," Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/10/1984, Lifestyle section, p. D1.


*Updates and corrections were made to this entry with information provided by Eastern Kentucky University Special Collections and Archives [Library Associate, Sarah Adams], 02/12/2016.

Subjects: Education and Educators, Military & Veterans, Women's Groups and Organizations, Women's Army Corps (WACs), Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky / France

Williams, William "Colonel"
Birth Year : 1898
Death Year : 1973
Williams was born in Virginia. Also known as Bill, he settled in Greenup, KY, in 1922, remaining there until his death. Williams taught himself to play the guitar at the age of 10. He teamed up with Blind Blake and entertained at road gang camps in Tennessee. Once in Kentucky, he played at social parties and also at the Mountain Heritage Folk Festival, Louisville Folk Festival, and many others. For more see Blues Who's Who, by S. Harris; and Bill Williams on Blue Goose Records.

Subjects: Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Blind, Visually Impaired
Geographic Region: Virginia / Greenup, Greenup County, Kentucky


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