The Kenneth Jernigan Collection
Scope and Contents
The Kenneth Jernigan Collection covers the years 1935 to 1998, with the majority of the collection dating from 1954 to 1986. The collection documents his personal and professional life, with particular focus on his tenure as director for the Iowa Commission for the Blind (ICB) and his membership on the Iowa Wine Advisory Board. Portions of the collection also deal with Jernigan’s family history, his college education, and his honorary degrees for his work with the organized blind movement. Only a small portion of the collection pertains to his life before and after his residence in Des Moines, Iowa. Additionally, the collection does not include the majority of existing files pertaining to his work with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) or his role as its president from 1968-1986. For information on records related to Jernigan and the NFB, please consult the finding aid for the National Federation of the Blind Institutional Records (NFBIR). Materials include print and Braille correspondence, news clippings, reports, programs, diplomas, meeting minutes, photos, printed matter, ephemera, audio recordings, and one scrapbook. Unless otherwise noted, most correspondence and news clippings are arranged in reverse chronological order. Most original news clippings have been photocopied and replaced with access copies on acid-free paper. Braille materials are generally accompanied by printed file information sheets for identification purposes. In rare cases, Braille correspondence was transcribed into print and the originals were discarded. Jernigan’s interest in his family genealogy is reflected in records and documents published by family members, including his brother, Lloyd Jernigan, which date from 1971 to 1997. Early examples of poetry and prose written by Jernigan in the 1940s are included in the records of his college education. However, the collection does not contain drafts or published copies of his numerous articles and speeches, most of which were printed in the Braille Monitor, the newsletter of the NFB. Archived issues of the Braille Monitor are available on the NFB Web site (http://www.nfb.org/braille-monitor) and at the Internet Archive (www.archive.org). The correspondence files span the years 1954 to 1996 and deal mainly with Jernigan’s personal activities while in Des Moines, Iowa, and Baltimore, Maryland. They include personal correspondence with family, friends, informal acquaintances, and formal correspondence with people who were not connected to his professional career or his involvement with organizations of or for the blind. The subject content in some letters may overlap with his work at the ICB or his advocacy work for various organizations of the blind. However, this is only a small portion of the collection. Correspondence related to Jernigan’s involvement in the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the World Blind Union, the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, or the Friends of Libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of North America are not included in this collection, but can be found in the NFBIR. The NFBIR should also be consulted for evidence of Jernigan’s appointment to and involvement in federal committees focused on the needs of the blind and disabled. Though mainly concerned with the rights and needs of the blind, this collection also documents Jernigan’s interest in other causes and his involvement in organizations unrelated to the blindness community. This includes the Iowa Wine Advisory Board, to which Jernigan was appointed by the Iowa Liquor Control Commission in 1970. Materials related to this organization include correspondence, news clippings, and reports. Jernigan’s work at the ICB from 1958-1978 is represented by correspondence, meeting minutes, and publicity files created in his capacity as administrator and director, with some materials dating before or after his employment. The bulk of materials related to the ICB concern the management and oversight of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School (IBSSS) from 1940 to 1986, including its interactions with the ICB. Includes reports on a proposed merger of the IBSSS and the Iowa School for the Deaf in 1986. A small portion of the collection contains files related to the Iowa Association of the Blind, 1965-1974, which was an affiliate of the NFB. Some records pertain to the Iowa Advisory Committee for the Blind, 1955-1964, which was made up of members of the ICB, the Iowa Association of the Blind, and the IBSSS who were charged by the state government to coordinate resources for the blind in Iowa. For the most part, these records do not pertain to the day-to-day running of the ICB, the activities of its other employees, or the case files of its clients. Some related materials in the form of correspondence and board meeting minutes can be found in the National Federation of the Blind Institutional Records. Jernigan’s tenure at the ICB, his work with the NFB, and his personal accomplishments are also represented in publicity files containing news clippings and articles which were written about and collected by him. Aspects of his childhood and family life are also preserved in scrapbooks and photo albums, which were annotated by family members.
- Created: 1935-1998
- Other: Majority of material found in 1954-1986
Conditions Governing Access
Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Jacobus tenBroek Library. Consult the Archives staff for further information.
Conditions Governing Use
The Jacobus tenBroek Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Archives staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Jacobus tenBroek Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.
Biographical or Historical Information
Kenneth Jernigan (1926-1998) was a longtime leader in the organized blind movement. He served as President of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) from 1968-1986, and remained an active leader in the organization until his death. Under his administration Jernigan guided the organization through one of its most impressive periods of growth, leading to the establishment of affiliates in all fifty states, as well as in the District of Columbia. He left a lasting impression not only on the members of the NFB, but on the way that blindness is viewed by the general public and how programs for the blind are managed in the United States.
Blind from birth, Jernigan’s work as a teacher, writer, administrator, and advocate had a direct impact on the lives of blind people in the United States and around the world. During his tenure as director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind (1958-1978), he created a training program for the blind based on NFB philosophy. His model is still endorsed by the NFB and has been replicated in public and private agencies for the blind throughout the U.S. His emphasis on training, job placement, and above all a positive attitude towards blindness are all hallmarks of what has been referred to as the “Iowa Experiment.”
The recipient of many awards, including four honorary doctorates and two presidential citations, Jernigan actively participated in a large number of organizations and governmental bodies concerned with the needs and rights of blind people. Among his other achievements, Jernigan was responsible for the establishment of the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, MD, in 1978, known today as the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.
Note written by Anna Kresmer
6.58 Linear Feet
4 archival cartons, 2 Hollinger boxes, 5 custom boxes, and 1 oversized folder other_unmapped
Language of Materials
Correspondence in print and Braille, news clippings, printed matter, photographs, scrapbooks, and magnetic tape audio recordings related to the personal and professional life of Kenneth Jernigan, president of the National Federation of the Blind, director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind (ICB), executive director of the American Brotherhood for the Blind, teacher, administrator, and advocate for the blind. The collection also documents his interactions as director of the ICB with the administrators of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, as well as his membership on the Iowa Wine Advisory Board.
Newspaper clippings and correspondence in both print and Braille have been arranged in reverse chronological order from newest to oldest. Unless otherwise noted, all other dated materials are arranged in chronological order from oldest to newest. Photographs albums, scrapbooks, and oversized materials have been placed in separate housing, unless otherwise noted in the series descriptions. The collection is organized into 6 series and 1 subseries:
Physical Access Requirements
Some materials are written in contracted Braille and do not have print equivalents. A Braille reader will be required for access. Please contact Archives staff for assistance.
Technical Access Requirements
The collection includes two open reel magnetic tape audio recordings on 6 mm tape (¼”), which require the use of a player.
A portion of the collection was stored by Kenneth Jernigan in the National Federation of the Blind Institutional Records during Jernigan’s work with the organization before being transferred to this collection in August of 2012. Records created by Kenneth Jernigan during his time at the Iowa Commission for the Blind (ICB) and relating to interactions between the ICB and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School were donated to Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), in August of 2008 by the Iowa Department for the Blind in Des Moines, Iowa. Additional materials concerning Jernigan’s family and personal life were transferred to the Jacobus tenBroek Library by his widow, Mary Ellen Jernigan, circa 2005, including some materials from his second wife, Anna Katherine Jernigan.
Other Descriptive Information
Some correspondence is in contracted Braille.
Processed by Anna Kresmer, August 2012
- Blind – Education
- Blind – Employment
- Blind – Rehabilitation
- Blindness – Public opinions
- Blindness – Social conditions
- Grannis, Florence
- Iowa Advisory Committee for the Blind
- Iowa Association of the Blind
- Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School
- Iowa Commission for the Blind
- Iowa Wine Advisory Board
- Jernigan, Kenneth
- Legislation – Iowa
- National Federation of the Blind
- National Federation of the Blind of Iowa
- People with disabilities – Civil rights – United States
- Public welfare - Iowa
- Ray, Robert D., 1928-
- Rocco, Frank
- Social Advocacy
- Social reformers
- Students with disabilities – Education – United States
- Taylor, John
- Willoughby, Curtis
- Archon Finding Aid Title
- Anna Kresmer
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note