Movie Magic: Helen Keller in Paris to Honor Louis Braille, 1952
by Helen Selsdon
Two hundred and seven years ago, on January 4th, 1809, Louis Braille was born in Coupvray, France. His invention of a system of raised dots representing letters, numbers and punctuation revolutionized the way blind people read and write and opened a wealth of knowledge to visually impaired audiences. In 1952, one hundred years after his death, Braille's body — with the exception of his hands — was removed from his home town to the Pantheon in Paris. Helen Keller was asked to give the speech on that occasion. AFB is thrilled to bring you this marvelous movie clip of that event. The clip includes her giving an address in French and accepting the French Legion of Honor for her work on behalf of those with vision loss worldwide.
This is one of a handful of clips recently remastered and digitized, and is part of the American Foundation for the Blind's (AFB) big push to digitize Helen Keller's entire archival collection and make it fully accessible to both blind and hearing impaired audiences:
Male audio description: Helen touches the spines of books. Next, a marble bust in the image of Louis Braille. His closed eyes rest above his smooth, high cheekbones. Later, Helen and Polly walk into a large building with a stone façade. A plaque on the front reads: American Foundation for Overseas Blind, Inc. Formerly American Braille Press. Affiliated with American Foundation for the Blind, New York.
Female narrator: And for books, she is indebted, as are all the world's sightless, to a blind Frenchman, Louis Braille, by whose invention the blind of all nations can read. It was to honor his memory that Helen, in 1952, went to France. At the Paris office of the Foundation for the Blind she write in French the address she is to give on the 100th anniversary of his death. "A notre manière,… In our way, we the Blind are as indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg."
Male audio description: She types on a typewriter.
Female narrator: Helen's speech is only a part of the world's tribute to a great man. Today, 100 years after his death he's being taken from the little village where he lived to lie for the rest of time in the Pantheon: the burial place of France's great.
Male audio description: Hundreds walk in a procession following a hearse.
Female narrator: Behind his coffin march the blind of Paris.
Male audio description: Rows of children, middle-aged adults and older people walk with their arms connected together. One man carries a white cane. Nuns and uniformed school-girls follow, some wear dark sunglasses. They march to an elaborate, stone building with six imposing columns. The people file inside the church-like mausoleum. Carved pillars stand in the massive, open space. A dome sits on top of the structure.
Female narrator: And later, at the Sorbonne, Helen Keller delivers the address in his honor.
Helen Keller [speaking in French and translated as follows]: In our way, we, the blind, are indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg
Frenchman repeats Helen's words: "A notre manière, nous, les aveugles, sommes autant redevables à LouisBraille que L'espece humaine l'est à Gutenberg." [translation: In our way, we, the blind, are as indebted to Louis braille as mankind is to Gutenberg.]
Female narrator: Afterward, Helen Keller, Louis Braille's great disciple is made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
Male French official: Je vous présente Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. [translation: I present you with the French Legion of Honor]
Male audio description: A man pins a medal onto Helen's dress. She smiles. The man kisses Helen's left and right cheek. Polly stands beside Helen and also kisses her cheeks. A large poster at the back of the stage displays the braille alphabet.
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