The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States

Foreword to the Original Edition

In 1921 at the biennial meeting of the American Association of Workers for the Blind in Vinton, Iowa, Dr. H. Randolph Latimer spoke of the need for an American Foundation for the Blind. He spoke of the problems which faced the field. "The situation," he said, "could be overcome if there were a national body composed of three major arms. One would be a Bureau of Information to collect, codify, and disseminate the most authoritative information to be had in the world on all questions pertaining to the blind."

The foundation was formed in that year and, over the half century that followed, it established within its quarters on West 16th Street in New York City, the M.C. Migel Memorial Library. In the library itself and in the adjacent archives most of the more valuable material in print about blindness has been collected. The collection, in both published and unpublished forms, covers the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.

At a meeting in 1970, the Foundation Board of Trustees, recognizing that there had never been a comprehensive history of the blind in the United States and the institutions that supported them, agreed that the Foundation was particularly well qualified for the task of preparing such a history. Thus, they authorized the writing and publication of a history, and suggested that the fifty-year period just ending be stressed since this was the period for which there was the most accurate information.

The publication was to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Foundation but, more important, it was to help eliminate in the years ahead unnecessary replication of past errors and to bring the field a broader base of understanding so that further advances could be made with greater confidence.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees
The American Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

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