Nothing has had a more profound influence on the perception of blindness and blind people than the Kernel Books, edited by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. These little paperback volumes contain first-person accounts by blind people of their own experiences. Each book includes a brief introduction by the editor along with a narrative about a portion of his life and thought. There are many contributors to the Kernel Books, but the segments written by Dr. Jernigan have a special sparkle.
In 1996, 1997, and 1998, Dr. Jernigan incorporated the material from the Kernel Books that he had written into major addresses delivered at conventions of the National Federation of the Blind. He observed in one of these addresses that the Kernel Books have altered the perception of blindness and changed the socioeconomic structure of our society. The changes that have been caused by these little books constitute nothing less than a revolution. Included here are some of the introductions to these books and all of the autobiographical material describing the experiences of the author. In those instances in which the material from the Kernel Book is incorporated within a larger address, the addresses have been reprinted here. The 1997 speech is of particular interest since it combines a new method of philosophical understanding with the experiences depicted in the Kernel Books. This address is entitled "The Day After Civil Rights." Dr. Jernigan worked for most of his long life to promote civil rights for the blind. He was no less interested in this endeavor at the end of his life than he had been in earlier times.
Yet, he recognized that, though this work is essential, it is not sufficient for full integration or the most meaningful of lives. It is only one element among many. The writings from the Kernel Books speak for themselves from the heart of the man who wrote them. In 1991, the Kernel Books were initiated with What Color is the Sun, which included this "Editors Introduction" and Dr. Jernigans article, "Growing Up Blind in Tennessee During the Depression."