Report of the State School for the Blind and the Deaf Now Available

Monday, November 4, 2019

Did you know that the state of North Carolina has been an advocate for visual and hearing-impaired residents for nearly 175 years? Or that it was the first state in the U.S. to open a school for blind and deaf African American students? To learn more about it, check out a recent addition to the North Carolina Digital Collections, Report of the State School for the Blind and the Deaf (1871-1873, 1877-1904 and 1904-1952).  Sign language diagram from 1884-1886 report.

The Governor Morehead School

Located just a few miles west of the Government and Heritage Library is the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. Established in 1845, the North Carolina Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind opened on Hillsborough Street with four teachers and twenty-three students. Shortly after opening the school relocated to Caswell Square and remained there until 1923 when it moved to its current location on Ashe Avenue. 

Recognizing the need to serve the blind and deaf African American community, and encouraged by the U.S. War Department, a second location was opened in 1869. This campus was located on South Bloodworth Street until 1929 when it was moved to Garner Road. The General Assembly approved the consolidation of the schools in 1967 (closing the Garner Road campus) and the student body was fully integrated a decade later.

Following several name alterations (including the State School for the Blind and Deaf in 1905) it was given its current name, Governor Morehead School in 1963 in honor of John Motley Morehead, Governor of North Carolina. He had first petitioned the General Assembly in 1844 to establish a state-supported school to serve the blind and deaf.

Report of the State School for the Blind and the Deaf

Main building, Garner Road campus.

In accordance with the law of the State, the institution presented a report to the legislature every two years. Included in the reports are a description of finances, departments, the student body, and general operations. Additionally, several contain images of earlier campuses, staff and faculty members, as well as students at play and in the classroom.  

Other valuable data includes general administrative developments of the school, such as name changes or what types of musical instruments were acquired throughout the years. The 1940-1942 report informs readers that “a fine moving picture projector” was purchased for weekly hour-long viewings. Utilized for both educational and entertainment purposes, during the 1942 school year up-to-date newsreels of the war effort were shown.

Those wanting to know more about the education offered to hearing and visually impaired students in the late 19th and early 20th century will find the daily schedules and course of studies very insightful. Moreover, the lists of students attending are useful for genealogy research. However, newer issues (1920-1950) have pages redacted to respect the individual’s privacy.


Reports now available in the North Carolina Digital Collections

To view all of the Report of the State School for the Blind and the Deaf (1871-1873, 1877-1904 and 1904-1952) issues, visit the North Carolina Digital Collections.

Victoria Haas, Digital Team