Years Later, Black Kentuckians Get Diplomas

While many schools are focused on the start of another academic year, the Kentucky School for the Deaf is honoring students who should have graduated several decades ago. Aaron Adams, Jr. Henrietta Burnette, Bobby Lee Oliver. Those were some of the names read at a graduation ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville.

The state Department of Education identified around 75 African Americans who attended the school between 1930 and 1955, but were never awarded their diploma. 

"We hope to be able to rectify, somewhat, the wrong that was done to these students. We can't go back and change history, but at least we try to make up for the wrong that was done to them back in that time period." 

Education department spokeswoman Lisa Gross says like many other schools at the time, the school for the deaf had a "colored division."

"And then they might stay here for a while and take classes. But in some cases, they actually were given menial jobs to do rather than getting an education, which is a horrible thing to think about but it actually happened." 

Gross says a person at the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing notified the education department about the injustice. The graduation ceremony was also attended by members of the state board of education and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.