The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute (NFBJI) invites researchers to use the resources of the Jacobus tenBroek Library. In addition to our collection of published material (searchable through our online catalog, THE BLIND CAT: www.nfb.org/theblindcat), the tenBroek Library is developing a manuscript collection on blindness and on Jacobus tenBroek's other areas of accomplishment. We are pleased to announce NFB Archon (http://archon.nfb.org/index.php), a portal to the library’s archives and manuscripts collection.
Jacobus tenBroek was the founding president of the NFB and served in that capacity (with a break of several years) from 1940 until his death in 1968. A law graduate of the University of California with an advanced degree from Harvard Law School, tenBroek was a significant constitutional scholar whose work was cited in the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. As a faculty member at Berkeley in the 1950s and 60s, tenBroek argued against the loyalty oath and in favor of the Free Speech Movement. TenBroek sat on the California Welfare Board and was its chair for a period. His 1966 article, “The Right to Live in the World,” is regarded as one of the foundational documents of disability rights law.
In addition to the 326 linear feet of the Jacobus tenBroek Personal Papers, the tenBroek Library currently holds the archives of the National Federation of the Blind, as well as several smaller collections. From its founding, the NFB has been a blind-led organization, unafraid of confrontation with agencies and government bureaus whose services to the blind were deficient or otherwise indicative of condescension, low expectations, and lack of trust for the blind as consumers.
On tenBroek’s death, Kenneth Jernigan succeeded him as NFB president. Jernigan, who also served as Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind from 1958 to 1978, revolutionized rehabilitation training for the blind by infusing the Iowa program with the NFB’s positive philosophy of blindness. Jernigan’s successor, Marc Maurer, has built the NFB into the recognized voice of the organized blind in the United States. The NFB Archives incorporates Jernigan’s and Maurer’s extensive correspondence, along with records documenting a wide range of NFB programs and activities.
Finding aids for the tenBroek Papers and the NFB Archives are searchable through NFB Archon (http://archon.nfb.org/index.php), as is the finding aid for the smaller Dorothy Tombaugh Collection. Tombaugh was a sighted high school biology teacher frustrated by the absence of resources for teaching blind students who were mainstreamed at her public school. Working with her husband, an engineer, she developed innovative techniques and apparatus for blind science students in the period before personal computers became ubiquitous. With grant funds awarded by the National Science Foundation, Tombaugh toured the country training other teachers in her techniques.
Our other accessioned—but not fully processed—collections include the papers of Isabelle Grant, of Robert Jaquiss, and of James Omvig. Grant, who died in 1977, was a blind teacher and two-time Fulbright Fellow who travelled independently throughout Asia and Africa; Jaquiss is a blind technology specialist whose parents minutely documented his early life and their successful efforts to teach him independence in the 1950s and 60s; Omvig was a student of Kenneth Jernigan and remains a leading member of the NFB. We also hold a sizable unprocessed collection of museum articles that includes electronic and mechanical devices developed for use by blind people. None of our growing collection of oral history interviews has been transcribed, but we will accept inquiries about them.
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