Blindness: Is History Against Us?

An Address Delivered by Kenneth Jernigan
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
New York City, July 5, 1973

Experts in the field, as well as members of the general public, have differed greatly as to what the future may hold for the blind. Some, seeking to tell it like it is, see us blundering on forever in roles of economic dependency and second-class citizenship. Others, more hopefully, predict a slow but steady progress toward independence, equality, and full membership in society. My own view is that this is not a matter for prediction at all, but for decision. I believe that neither of these possible outcomes is certain or foreseeable, for the simple reason that the choices we make and the actions we take are themselves factors in the determination of the future. In short, we the blind (like all people) confront alternative futures: one future in which we will live our own lives, or another future in which our lives will be lived for us.

But if the future is open and contingent, surely the past is closed and final. Whatever disputes men may have about the shape of things to come, there can be no doubt about the shape of things gone by--the permanent record of history. Or can there? Is there such a thing as an alternative past?

We all know what the historical record tells us. It tells us that, until only yesterday, blind people were completely excluded from the ranks of the normal community. In early societies they were reputedly abandoned, exterminated, or left to fend for themselves as beggars on the lunatic fringe of the community. In the late Middle Ages, so we are told, provision began to be made for their care and protection in almshouses and other sheltered institutions. Only lately, it would seem, have blind people begun stealthily to emerge from the shadows, and to move in the direction of independence and self-sufficiency.

That is what history tells us—or, rather, that is what histories and the historians have told us. And the lesson commonly derived from these histories is that the blind have always been dependent upon the wills and the mercies of others. We have been the people things were done to—and, occasionally, the people things were done for—but never the people who did for themselves. In effect, according to this account, we have no history of our own—no record of active participation or adventure or accomplishment, but only (until almost our own day) an empty and unbroken continuum of desolation and dependency. It would seem that the blind have moved through time and the world not only sightless but faceless—a people without distinguishing features, anonymous and insignificant--not so much as rippling the stream of history.

Nonsense! That is not fact but fable. That is not truth but a lie. In reality the accomplishments of blind people through the centuries have been out of all proportion to their numbers. There are genius, and fame, and adventure, and enormous versatility of achievement—not just once in a great while but again and again, over and over. To be sure, there is misery also—poverty and suffering and misfortune aplenty—just as there is in the general history of mankind. But this truth is only a half-truth—and, therefore, not really a truth at all. The real truth, the whole truth, reveals a chronicle of courage and conquest, of greatness, and even glory on the part of blind people, which has been suppressed and misrepresented by sighted historians—not because these historians have been people of bad faith or malicious intent but because they have been people, with run-of-the-mill prejudice and ordinary misunderstandings. Historians, too, are human; and when facts violate their preconceptions, they tend to ignore those facts.

Now, we are at a point in time when the story of the blind (the true and real story) must be told. For too long the blind have been (not unwept, for there has been much too much of that) but unhonored and unsung. Let us, at long last, redress the balance and right the wrong. Let us now praise our famous men and celebrate the exploits of blind heroes. Rediscovering our true history, we shall, in our turn, be better able to make history; for when people (seeing or blind) come to know the truth, the truth will set them free.

Let us begin with Zisca: patriotic leader of Bohemia in the early fifteenth century, one of history's military geniuses, who defended his homeland in a brilliant campaign against invading armies of overwhelming numerical superiority. Zisca was, in the hour of his triumph, totally blind. The chronicle of his magnificent military effort—which preserved the political independence and religious freedom of his country, and which led to his being offered the crown of Bohemia—is worth relating in some detail. Need I add that this episode is not to be found, except in barest outline, in the standard histories? Fortunately it has been recorded by two historians of the last century—James Wilson, an Englishman writing in 1820, and William Artman, an American writing seventy years later. What do you suppose these two historians have in common, apart from their occupation? You are right: Both were blind. The account of the career of Zisca which follows has been drawn substantially from their eloquent and forceful narratives.

The Council of Constance, which was convened by the Pope in the year 1414 for the purpose of rooting out heresy in the Church—and which commanded John Huss and Jerome of Prague to be burned at the stake—sent terror and consternation throughout Bohemia . . . ."1 In self-defense the Bohemian people took up arms against the Pope and the emperor. They chose as their commanding general the professional soldier John de Turcznow—better known as Zisca, meaning "one-eyed," for he had lost the sight of an eye in the course of earlier battles. At the head of a force of 40,000 citizen-soldiers—a force not unlike the ragged army that would follow General Washington in another patriotic struggle three centuries later—Zisca marched into combat, only to be suddenly blinded in his remaining eye by an arrow from the enemy.

Here is where our story properly begins. For Zisca, upon his recovery from the injury, flatly refused to play the role of the helpless blind man. ". . . His friends were surprised to hear him, talk of setting out for the army, and did what was in their power to dissuade him from it, but he continued resolute. 'I have yet,' said he, 'to shed my blood for the liberties of Bohemia. She is enslaved; her sons are deprived of their natural rights, and are the victims of a system of spiritual tyranny as degrading to the character of man as it is destructive of every moral principle; therefore, Bohemia must and shall be free.'"2

And so the blind general resumed his command, to the great joy of his troops. When the news came to the Emperor Sigismund "he called a convention of all the states in his empire . . . and entreated them, for the sake of their sovereign, for the honor of their empire, and for the cause of their religion, to put themselves in arms . . . . The news came to Zisca that two large armies were in readiness to march against him . . . . The former was to invade Bohemia on the west, the latter on the east; they were to meet in the center, and as they expressed it, crush this [rebel] between them."3

By all the rules of warfare, by all conventional standards of armament and power, that should have been the end of Zisca and his rabble army. "After some delay the emperor entered Bohemia at the head of his army, the flower of which was fifteen thousand Hungarians, deemed at that time the best cavalry in Europe . . . . The infantry, which consisted of 25,000 men, were equally fine, and well commanded. This force spread terror throughout all the east of Bohemia."4 The stage was set for the fateful climax—the final confrontation and certain obliteration of the upstart rebel forces. "On the 11th of January, 1422, the two armies met on a large plain. . . . Zisca appeared in the center of his front line (accompanied] by a horseman on each side, armed with a poleax. His troops, having sung a hymn, . . . drew their swords and waited for the signal. Zisca stood not long in view of the enemy, and when his officers had informed him that the ranks were well closed, waved his saber over his head, which was the signal of battle, and never was there an onset more mighty and irresistible. As dash a thousand waves against the rock-bound shore, so Zisca rolled his steel-fronted legions upon the foe. The imperial infantry hardly made a stand, and in the space of a few minutes they were disordered beyond the possibility of being rallied. The cavalry made a desperate effort to maintain the field, but finding themselves unsupported, wheeled round and fled . . . toward . . . Moravia . . . ."5

It was a total rout and an unconditional victory, but, ". . . Zisca's labors were not yet ended. The emperor, exasperated by his defeat, raised new armies, which he sent against Zisca the following spring . . . . But the blind general, determined that his country should not be enslaved while he had strength to wield a sword, gathered his brave army" and met the enemy yet again, despite fearsome disadvantages in numbers and equipment. "An engagement ensued, in which the [enemy] were utterly routed, leaving no less than nine thousand of their number dead on the field."6

The remaining branch of the grand imperial army, under the command of Sigismund himself, next met a similar fate, and the mighty emperor was compelled to sue for peace at the hands of the blind general. Then there occurred the final magnificent gesture of this extraordinary human being. As the historian Wilson recounts the episode: "Our blind hero, having taken up arms only to secure peace, was glad for an opportunity to lay them down. When his grateful countrymen requested him to accept the crown of Bohemia, as a reward for his eminent services, he respectfully declined."7 And this is what Zisca said: "While you find me of service to your designs, you may freely command both my counsels and my sword, but I will never accept any established authority; on the contrary, my most earnest advice to you is, when the perverseness of your enemies allows you peace, to trust yourselves no longer in the hands of kings, but to form yourselves into a republic, which species of government only can secure your liberties."8

That is the true story of Zisca—military genius, patriot, freedom fighter, statesman, and blind man. Extraordinary as his heroism was, it exceeds only in degree the story of yet another blind Bohemian—King John, the blind monarch who fell in the historic Battle of Cressy, which engaged the energies and cost the lives of many of Europe's nobility. This king had been blind for many years. When he heard the clang of arms, he turned to his lords and said: "I only now desire this last piece of service from you, that you would bring me forward so near to these Englishmen that I may deal among them one good stroke with my sword." In order not to be separated, the king and his attendants tied the reins of their horses one to another, and went into battle. There this valiant old hero had his desire, and came boldly up to the Prince of Wales, and gave more than "one good stroke" with his sword. He fought courageously, as did all his lords, and others about him; but they engaged themselves so far that all were slain, and next day found dead, their horses' bridles still tied together.

In the country of the blind, it has foolishly been said, the one-eyed man will inevitably be king. This, of course, is nonsense. In fact, the very opposite has often been true. History reveals that in the realm of the sighted it is not at all remarkable for a blind man to be king. Thus, in 1851, George Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, first cousin to Queen Victoria, ascended the throne of Hanover under the royal title of George the Fifth. That this blind king of Hanover was no incompetent, but distinctly superior to the ordinary run of monarchs, is shown by the words of a contemporary historian, who said:

"Though laboring under the deprivation of sight, this Prince is as efficient in his public, as he is beloved in his private, character; a patron of the arts and sciences, and a promoter of agricultural interests . . .he has acquired a perfect knowledge of six different languages."9

A strikingly similar account has been handed down to us of the blind Prince Hitoyasu, who reigned as a provincial governor in Japan over a thousand years ago and "whose influence set a pattern for the sightless which differed from that in any other country and saved his land from the scourge of beggary."10 Thoroughly trained in both Japanese and Chinese literature, Prince Hitoyasu introduced blind people into society and the life of the court. In ninth century Japan, when the blind led the blind, they did not fall into a ditch, but rose out of it together.

Let us turn now from the records of royalty to the annals of adventure. Perhaps the most persistent and destructive myth concerning the blind is the assumption of our relative inactivity and immobility—the image of the blind person glued to his rocking chair and, at best, sadly dependent on others to guide or transport him on his routine daily rounds. "Mobility," we are led to believe, is a modern term, which has just begun to have meaning for the blind. To be sure, many blind persons have been cowed by the myth of helplessness into remaining in their sheltered corners. But there have always been others—like James Holman, Esquire, a solitary traveler of a century and a half ago, who gained the great distinction of being labeled by the Russians as "the blind spy." Yes, it really happened! This intrepid Englishman, traveling alone across the steppes of Greater Russia all the way to Siberia, was so close an observer of all about him that he was arrested as a spy by the Czar's police and conducted to the borders of Austria, where he was ceremoniously expelled.

Here is how it happened. Holman lost his sight at the age of twenty-five, after a brief career as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy; but his urge to travel, instead of declining, grew stronger.

He soon embarked upon a series of voyages—first through France and Italy, then (at one fell swoop) through Poland, Austria, Saxony, Prussia, Hanover, Russia, and Siberia. His real intention, as he later wrote, was to "make a circuit of the whole world," entirely on his own and unaccompanied—an ambition he might well have fulfilled had it not been for the Czar's police and the Russian spy charges. He later published a two-volume account of his travels and observations, and his own reflections upon his Russian adventure are worth repeating:

"My situation," he wrote, "was now one of extreme novelty and my feelings corresponded with its peculiarity. I was engaged . . . in a solitary journey of a thousand miles, through a country, perhaps the wildest on the face of the earth, whose inhabitants were scarcely yet accounted within the pale of civilization, with no other attendant than a rude Tartar postillion, to whose language my ear was wholly unaccustomed; and yet, I was supported by a feeling of happy confidence . . ."11

As Federationists know, there have been other blind travelers in our own time quite as intrepid as James Holman. Yet Holman's story—the case of the "blind spy"—is important for its demonstration that blind people could wear such seven-league boots almost two centuries ago—before Braille or the long cane, before residential schools or vocational rehabilitation, before even the American Foundation for the Blind and its 239-page book on personal management for the blind.

But there is a more basic side to mobility, of course, than the opportunity and capacity for long-distance traveling. There is the simple ability to get about, to walk and run, to mount a horse or ride a bicycle—in short, to be physically independent. The number of blind persons who have mastered these skills of travel is countless, but no one has ever proved the, point or shown the way with more flair than a stalwart Englishman of the, eighteenth century named John Metcalf. Indeed, this brash fellow not only defied convention, but the world. Totally blind from childhood, he was (among other things) a successful builder of roads and bridges; racehorse rider; bare-knuckle fighter; card shark; stagecoach driver; and on occasion, guide to sighted tourists through the local countryside. Here is an account of some of his many enterprises:

"In 1751 he commenced a new employment; he set up a stage wagon betwixt York and Knaresborough, being the first on the road, and drove it himself, twice a week in summer, and once in winter. This business, with the occasional conveyance of army baggage, employed his attention till the period of his first contracting for the making of roads, which engagement suiting him better, he relinquished every other pursuit . . . . The first piece of road he made was about three miles . . . , and the materials for the whole were to be produced from one gravel pit; he therefore provided deal boards, and erected a temporary house at the pit; took a dozen horses to the place; fixed racks and mangers, and hired a house for his men, at Minskip. He often walked to Knaresborough in the morning, with four or five stones of meal on his shoulders, and joined his men by six o'clock. He completed the road much sooner than was expected, to the entire satisfaction of the surveyor and trustees . . . ."12

The story of "Blind Jack" Metcalf, for all its individuality, is far from unique. Rather, it underscores what even we as Federationists sometimes forget, and what most of the sighted have never learned at all—namely, that the blind can compete on terms of absolute equality with others—that we are really, literally, the equals of the sighted. We have been kept down by the myths and false beliefs about our inferiority, by the self-fulfilling prophecies of the custodial system which has conditioned the sighted and the blind alike to believe we are helpless, but not by any innate lacks or losses inherent in our blindness.

Metcalf's accomplishments in applied science were probably matched by those of a French army officer more than a century before. Blaise Francoise, Comte de Pagan, was blinded in the course of military service, shortly before he was to be promoted to the rank of field marshal. He then turned his attention to the science of fortifications, wrote the definitive work on the subject, and subsequently published a variety of scientific works, among which was one entitled "An Historical and Geographical Account of the River of the Amazons" (which included a chart drawn up by this military genius after he became blind)!

Like the sighted, the blind have had their share of solid citizens, namby-pambies, strong-minded individualists, squares, oddballs, eggheads, and eccentrics. The sixteenth-century German scholar James Shegkins, for instance, refused to undergo an operation which was virtually guaranteed to restore his sight: "in order," as he said, "not to be obliged to see many things that might appear odious and ridiculous."13 Shegkins, a truly absent-minded professor, taught philosophy and medicine over many years with great success, and left behind him influential monographs on a dozen scientific subjects.

The success story of Dr. Nicholas Bacon, a blind lawyer of eighteenth-century France, somewhat resembles that of our own beloved founder, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. Both were blinded in childhood by bow-and-arrow accidents, and both went on to high academic achievement in law and related studies. The strenuous exertions which Bacon was forced to go through at each stage of his climb are indicated by the following account:

"When he recovered his health, which had suffered from the accident, he continued the same plan of education which he had before commenced . . . . But his friends treated his intention with ridicule, and even the professors themselves were not far from the same sentiment; for they admitted him into their schools, rather under an impression that he might amuse them, than that they should be able to communicate much information to him." However, he obtained "the first place among his fellow students. They then said that such rapid advances might be made in the preliminary branches of education, but not . . . in studies of a more profound nature; and when . . . it became necessary to study the art of poetry, it was declared by the general voice that all was over . . . . But here he likewise disproved their prejudices . . . . He applied himself to law, and took his degree in that science at Brussels."14

Years earlier—in the fourth century after Christ—another blind man made an even steeper ascent to learning. He was Didymus of Alexandria, who became one of the celebrated scholars of the early church. He carved out of wood an alphabet of letters and laboriously taught himself to form them into words, and shape the words into sentences. Later, when he could afford to hire readers, he is said to have worn them out one after another in his insatiable quest for knowledge. He became the greatest teacher of his age. He mastered philosophy and theology, and then went on to geometry and astrology. He was regarded by his students, some of whom like St. Jerome became church fathers, with "a touch of awe" because of his vast learning and intellect.

Didymus was not the only blind theologian to gain eminence within the church. In the middle of the seventeenth century, at almost the same moment Milton was composing Paradise Lost, a blind priest named Prospero Fagnani was writing a commentary on church law, which was to bring him fame as one of the outstanding theorists of the Roman faith. At the precocious age of 21, Fagnani had already earned the degree of doctor of civil and canon law, and in the very next year, he was appointed Secretary of the Congregation of the Council. His celebrated Commentary, published in six quarto volumes, won high praise from Pope Benedict XIV and caused its author to become identified throughout Europe by a Latin title which in translation signifies "the blind yet farseeing doctor."

These few biographical sketches plucked from the annals of the blind are no more than samples. They are not even the most illustrious instances I could have given. I have said nothing at all about the best known of history's blind celebrities—Homer, Milton, and Helen Keller. There is good reason for that omission. Not only are those resounding names well enough known already but they have come to represent—each in its own sentimentalized, storybook form—not the abilities and possibilities of people who are blind but the exact opposite. Supposedly these giants are the exceptions that prove the rule—the rule, that is, that the blind are incompetent. Each celebrated case is explained away to keep the stereotype intact: Thus, Homer (we are repeatedly told) probably never existed at all—being not a man but a committee! As for Milton, he is dismissed as a sighted poet, who happened to become blind in later life. And Helen Keller, they say, was the peculiarly gifted and just plain lucky beneficiary of a lot of money and a "miracle worker" (her tutor and companion, Anne Sullivan).

Don't you believe it! These justly famous cases of accomplishment are not mysterious, unexplainable exceptions—they are only remarkable. Homer, who almost certainly did exist and who was clearly blind, accomplished just a little better what other blind persons after him have accomplished by the thousands: that is, he was a good writer. Milton composed great works while he was sighted, and greater ones (including Paradise Lost) after he became blind. His example, if it proves anything, proves only that blindness makes no difference in ability. As for Helen Keller, her life demonstrates dramatically what great resources of character and will and intellect may live in a human being beyond the faculties of sight and sound—which is not to take anything at all away from Anne Sullivan.

In the modern world it is not the poets or the humanists, but the scientists, who have held the center of the stage. As would be expected, the stereotyped view has consistently been that the blind cannot compete in these areas. How does this square with the truth?

Consider the case of Nicholas Saunderson—totally blind from infancy—who succeeded Sir Isaac Newton in the chair of mathematics at Cambridge University, despite the fact that he had earlier been refused admission to the same university and was never permitted to earn a degree! It was the great Newton himself who pressed Saunderson's appointment upon the reluctant Cambridge dons; and it was no less a personage than Queen Anne of England who made it possible by conferring the necessary degree upon Saunderson. Later he received a Doctor of Laws degree from King George II, a symbol of the renown he had gained as a mathematician. Among Saunderson's best subjects, by the way, was the science of optics—at which he was so successful that the eminent Lord Chesterfield was led to remark on "the miracle of a man who had not the use of his own sight teaching others how to use theirs."15

For another example, consider John Gough, a blind English biologist of the eighteenth century, who became a master at classification of plants and animals by substituting the sense of touch for that of sight. Or consider Leonard Euler, a great mathematician of the same century, who (after becoming blind) won two research prizes from the Parisian Academy of Sciences, wrote a major work translated into every European language, and devised an astronomical theory which "has been deemed by astronomers, in exactness of computation, one of the most remarkable achievements of the human intellect."l6

Or, for a final illustration, consider Francois Huber, blind Swiss zoologist, who gained recognition as the pre-eminent authority of the eighteenth century on the behavior of bees. The famous writer Maurice Maeterlinck said of Huber that he was "the master and classic of contemporary apiarian science."l7

Even after all of this evidence, there will be many (some of them, regrettably, our own blind Uncle Toms) who will try to deny and explain it all away—who will attempt to keep intact their outworn notions about the helplessness of the blind as a class. So let me nail down a couple of points: In the first place, is all of this talk about history and the success of blind individuals really valid? Isn't it true that most blind people throughout the ages have lived humdrum lives, achieving neither fame nor glory, and soon forgotten? Yes, it is true—but for the sighted as well as for the blind. For the overwhelming majority of mankind (the blind and the sighted alike) life has been squalor and hard knocks and anonymity from as far back as anybody knows. There were doubtless blind peasants, blind housewives, blind shoemakers, blind businessmen, blind thieves, blind prostitutes, and blind holy men who performed as competently or as incompetently (and are now as forgotten) as their sighted contemporaries.

"Even so," the doubter may say, "I'm still not convinced. Don't you think the track record for the blind is worse than the track record for the sighted? Don't you think a larger percentage of the blind have failed?"

Again, the answer is yes—just as with other minorities. That's what it's all about. Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, age after age we the blind were told that we were helpless—that we were inferior—and we believed it and acted accordingly. But no more! As with other minorities, we have tended to see ourselves as others have seen us. We have accepted the public view of our limitations, and thus have done much to make those limitations a reality. When our true history conflicted with popular prejudice, the truth was altered or conveniently forgotten. We have been ashamed of our blindness and ignorant of our heritage, but never again! We will never go back to the ward status of second-class citizens. There is simply no way. There are blind people aplenty—and sighted allies, too—(many of them in this room tonight) who will take to the streets and fight with their bare hands if they must before they will let it happen.

And this, too, is history—our meeting, our movement, our new spirit of self-awareness and self-realization. In our own time and in our own day we have found leaders as courageous as Zisca, and as willing to go into battle to resist tyranny. But we are no longer to be counted by ones and twos, or by handfuls or hundreds. We are now a movement, with tens of thousands in the ranks. Napoleon is supposed to have said that history is a legend agreed upon. If this is true, then we the blind are in the process of negotiating a new agreement, with a legend conforming more nearly to the truth and the spirit of the dignity of man.

And what do you think future historians will say of us—of you and me? What legends will they agree upon concerning the blind of the mid-twentieth century? How will they deal with our movement—with the National Federation of the Blind? Will they record that we fell back into the faceless anonymity of the ages, or that we met the challenges and survived as a free people? It all depends on what we do and how we act; for future historians will write the record, but we will make it. Our lives will provide the raw materials from which their legends will emerge to be agreed upon.

And, while no man can predict the future, I feel absolute confidence as to what the historians will say. They will tell of a system of governmental and private agencies established to serve the blind, which became so custodial and so repressive that reaction was inevitable. They will tell that the blind ("their time come 'round at last") began to acquire a new self-image, along with rising expectations, and that they determined to organize and speak for themselves. And they will tell of Jacobus tenBroek—of how he, as a young college professor, (blind and brilliant) stood forth to lead the movement like Zisca of old.

They will tell how the agencies first tried to ignore us, then resented us, then feared us, and finally came to hate us—with the emotion and false logic and cruel desperation which dying systems always feel toward the new about to replace them.

They will tell of the growth of our movement through the forties and fifties, and of our civil war—which resulted in the small group that splintered away to become puppets of the most reactionary of the agencies, a company union: our counterfeit dwarf image, the American Council of the Blind. They will tell how we emerged from our civil war into the sixties, stronger and more vital than we had ever been; and how more and more of the agencies began to make common cause with us for the betterment of the blind. They will tell of our court cases, our legislative efforts, and our organizational struggles—and they will record the sorrow and mourning of the blind at the death of their great leader, Jacobus tenBroek.

They will also record the events of today—of the 1970's—when the reactionaries among the agencies became even more so, and the blind of the second generation of the NFB stood forth to meet them. They will talk of the American Foundation for the Blind and its attempt (through its tool, NAC) to control all work with the blind, and our lives. They will tell how NAC and the American Foundation and the other reactionary agencies gradually lost ground and gave way before us. They will tell of new and better agencies rising to work in partnership with the blind, and of harmony and progress as the century draws to an end. They will relate how the blind passed from second-class citizenship through a period of hostility to equality and first-class status in society.

But future historians will only record these events if we make them come true. They can help us be remembered, but they cannot help us dream. That we must do for ourselves. They can give us acclaim, but not guts and courage. They can give us recognition and appreciation, but not determination or compassion or good judgment. We must either find those things for ourselves, or not have them at all.

We have come a long way together in this movement. Some of us are veterans, going back to the forties; others are new recruits, fresh to the ranks. Some are young; some are old. Some are educated, others not. It makes no difference. In everything that matters we are one; we are the movement; we are the blind.

Just as in 1940, when the National Federation of the Blind was formed, the fog rolls in through the Golden Gate. The eucalyptus trees give forth their pungent smell, and the Berkeley hills look down at the bay. The house still stands in those hills, and the planes still rise from San Francisco to span the world. But Jacobus tenBroek comes from the house no more, nor rides the planes to carry the word.

But the word is carried, and his spirit goes with it. He it was who founded this movement, and he it is whose dreams are still entwined in the depths of its being. Likewise, our dreams (our hopes and our visions) are part of the fabric, going forward to the next generation as a heritage and a challenge. History is not against us: The past proclaims it; the present confirms it; and the future demands it. If we falter or dishonor our heritage, we will betray not only ourselves but those who went before us and those who come after. But, of course, we will not fail. Whatever the cost, we shall pay it. Whatever the sacrifice, we shall make it. We cannot turn back, or stand still. Instead, we must go forward.

We shall prevail—and history will record it. The future is ours. Come! Join me on the barricades, and we will make it come true.


1. William Artman, Beauties and Achievements of the Blind (Auburn: Published for the Author, 1890), p. 265.

2. James Wilson, Biography of the Blind (Birmingham, England: Printed by J.W. Showell, Fourth Edition, 1838), p. 110.

3. Artman, op. cit., p. 265.

4. Ibid., p. 266.

5. Ibid., p. 267.

6. Ibid., p. 268.

7. Ibid., pp. 268-9.

8. Wilson, op. cit., p. 115.

9. Mrs. Hippolyte Van Landeghem, Exile and Home: The Advantages of Social Education of the Blind (London: Printed by W. Clowes & Sons, 1865), p. 95.

10. Gabriel Farrell, The Story of Blindness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p.7.

11. Wilson, op. cit., p. 262.

12. Ibid., pp. 100-101.

13. Artman, op. cit., p. 220.

14. Wilson, op. cit., p. 243.

15. Farrell, op. cit., p. 11.

16. Artman, op. cit., p. 226.

17. Farrell, op. cit., pp. 12-13.

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