Deaf History - History of Gallaudet University

From Humble Beginnings...A Powerhouse

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College for the Deaf. Grundy / Getty Images

Fall 1986: Gallaudet College became a University! I was a senior there then but missed the historic ceremony because I had fallen asleep in my dorm room exhausted after working literally all night on a special edition of the Buff and Blue student newspaper to commemorate the occasion.

Gallaudet University in Washington, DC was not always a University. It actually began as an elementary school. The basic facts:

  • 1850s - Amos Kendall donates land to establish a school for the deaf and the blind (Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind )
  • 1864 - President Lincoln signs the bill to authorize the school to grant college degrees. New name: National College for the Deaf and Dumb.
  • 1865 - Another new name. The blind students left, and the Institution became Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, while the college became National Deaf-Mute College.
  • 1887 - First women admitted to college; 1889 - Gallaudet University Alumni Association begins.
  • 1893 - College becomes Gallaudet College, to honor Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.
  • 1969 - Gallaudet established the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. In 1970, Kendall Demonstration Elementary School was established.
  • 1986 - the Education of the Deaf Act awards Gallaudet the status of being a University.
  • 1988 - the historic Deaf President Now movement takes place.

Books on Gallaudet History

The only book I know of solely about Gallaudet history is the historic History of the College for the Deaf, 1857-1907.This book is a detailed history of Gallaudet, written by Edward Miner Gallaudet. 

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