The Jacobus tenBroek Library's extensive collections include the personal and professional papers of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the National Federation of the Blind institutional archives, and many other materials.

tenBroek Papers and NFB Archives

What Are the tenBroek Papers?

The most significant single resource of the Jacobus tenBroek Library is the personal and professional papers of Jacobus tenBroek, founder of the NFB.

Dr. tenBroek (1911-1968) was a towering figure in many areas. The NFB as he built it in the 1940s and 1950s adumbrated many of the features of today’s disability rights movement, most importantly by asserting that the blind must speak for themselves as consumers and as a demographic minority that experiences discrimination. A graduate of the University of California School of Law (Boalt Hall), tenBroek earned additional graduate degrees in both law and political science. His scholarly interests centered on constitutional notions of “rights” and he is credited with helping to refine the idea of rights in the post-World War II era, one of the most famous examples being his 1966 California Law Review article, "The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled in the Law of Torts." In addition to disability rights, his writings have proved central to civil rights law and welfare rights law. His 1958 book, Prejudice, War, and the Constitution is regarded as the definitive critique of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to allow the federal government to relocate Japanese Americans during World War II. tenBroek served on the faculty of the University of California from 1942 until his death. As a university professor, he stood strongly in favor of academic freedom, opposing the loyalty oath during the 1950s, and supporting the student Free Speech Movement in 1964. Simultaneously with his social activism and scholarly work tenBroek was a member and, for a period, chairman of the California Social Welfare Board. 

The tenBroek papers—consisting largely of typed and printed documents, but with a significant portion in grade 3 Braille—is a major primary resource for research on any of his personal and professional interests.

How to Access the tenBroek Papers and NFB Archives

Thanks to a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (a division of the United States National Archives), we have completed the basic processing of the tenBroek papers and the NFB archives (ink-print and Braille).

THE CANE TIP is currently the database for finding aids that describe these collections.

In addition to access through THE CANE TIP, finding aids for these two collections are available in the following formats: 

Published Materials

THE BLIND CAT is the online public catalog of our published materials (textual and musical). Established in 2004, the Jacobus tenBroek Library is currently engaged in a large scale acquisitions program (both retrospective and current). The scope of its published materials—largely in print, but also in talking book, Braille, and digital formats—extends to all facets (except the medical) of blindness and the lives of blind people. We encourage users of THE BLIND CAT to let us know of books or other publications that are within our scope, that we do not yet own.

Kernel Books

The National Federation of the Blind's kernel book series highlights the stories of blind men and women, and goes beyond sentimentality and misconceptions—to the very "kernel" of blindness.

Louis Braille Book

The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to present the first electronic edition of Louis Braille's 1829 book, Procédé pour Écrire les Paroles, la Musique et le Plain-Chant au Moyen de Points à l'Usage des Aveugles et Disposé pour Eux.

Audiovisual Materials

The Jacobus tenBroek Library also holds—and makes available to researchers—extensive collections of archival photographs, sound recordings, NFB songs, and audiovisual material. At this time there is no public catalog or finding aid of this material. We will, however, happily respond to inquiries by phone or email. 

Full-Text Digital Files

We are in the process of providing links from records in our catalog to full-text digital editions of all items that are either in the public domain, or for which we have permission. Since the NFB is an "authorized entity" under the Chafee Amendment, we are able to provide eligible readers with accessible digital files of copyrighted material. Please contact us if you have questions about this program.

How You Can Contribute to Our Collections

We are currently soliciting personal and professional papers of other blind leaders, of blind and sighted inventors who have contributed to the blind, and of blind people in any walk of life. To submit these documents, please email us at [email protected] or call 410-659-9314, extension 2310. We are also soliciting NFB historical documents from our state affiliates and national divisions, committees, and groups. Please learn more about how you can submit to the NFB archives.