A smiling man and woman stand on each side of a bronze plaque with print and Braille visible. Both hold long white canes.

Julie Deden and Dan Burke outside Gennetti’s Hotel in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where a plaque hangs commemorating the birthplace of the National Federation of the Blind on November 16, 1940.

The national Federation of the Blind turns 75 today!

The NFB was formed in 1940 to bring the collective voice of the blind into being. Blind people in 1940 had little chance to be employed in meaningful jobs or to attend college. Some did, and in a number of states the blind had organized. On this date in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania delegates from seven states gathered with the express purpose of creating a national voice. The constitution was written, voted on and accepted by the delegates and the National Federation of the Blind was born.

In that time the NFB has wrought enormous change in attitudes toward the blind, though we still fight for equality in employment, education, and access to technology and information.

Part of the significant accomplishments of the past 75 years has been the revolutionization of rehabilitation programs and services for the blind. That is how the Colorado Center for the Blind and our sister NFB Centers, the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Rustin and BLIND, Inc in Minneapolis, came into being. Tired of cajoling programs to do a better job, to believe in their blind clients, the NFB started its own programs. It turns out that it’s sometimes easier to pull than to push, and for the past three decades other programs across the country have striven and strained to match our pace of success.

This past weekend the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania held its annual state convention in Wilkes-Barre at the same hotel where the delegates of those first seven states met 75 years ago. Featured on the agenda was a 40-minute talk by Jacobis “Dutch” TenBroek, son of our founding President, Dr. Jacobis TenBroek. Dutch gave us a picture of the man at home and with his family, but never at rest, never doubting his ability to do anything as a blind person, from cutting trees on the steep Berkeley hills where they lived to coaching President John F. Kenedy on oratory skills. For the TenBroeks, summer road trips were always trips to the National Federation of the Blind convention, wherever it happened to be that ear.

Executive Director Julie Deden and Public Relations Specialist Dan Burke traveled to Wilkes-Barre to attend this historic event, as well as to meet potential students.

“It truly was spectacular,” Julie told students and staff at this morning’s announcements at the Center. “I will always remember being there.”

And that’s about all the time there was for reflection, as it’s back to the work of the Center and of the NFB. There’s a lot of it to do, and with a belief in ourselves, our students and our purpose we look forward to the work and our centennary celebration!