Black #Disability History: Martha Louise Morrow Foxx, Inspired Teacher

Martha Louise Morrow Foxx (Oct. 9, 1902 – 1985)

“She developed in all her students’ self-reliance so that they could eagerly look forward to the time when they could support themselves out in the world”

A young african american woman with glasses in a white knee-length dress in a garden

Image: Martha Louise Morrow Foxx, a young African American woman with glasses in a white knee-length dress in a garden

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Martha Louise Morrow became partially sighted in infancy. An avid student studied at Governor Morehead School for the Blind, followed by Overbrook School for the Blind in 1917, after her family moved to Philadelphia. She graduated in 1927 and began college at Temple University. However, after only one year, she moved to Mississippi to work at the Piney Woods Country Life School.

The Piney Woods School was founded in 1909 by Laurence C. Jones in rural Rankin County, Mississippi, which had an eighty percent illiteracy rate, as a place to teach young black men and women how to be good workers.  Jones taught students about agriculture, carpentry, dairy farming and construction. But with the arrival of Martha Louise Morrow,  the Mississippi Blind School for Negroes was founded on the campus. Prior to this time, there was no formal education for black, blind students in the state of Mississippi.

Martha Louise Morrow was hired in April 1929. Less than a month later She was responsible for the 24/7 care of 10 blind students  – their personal care, medical attention, residential needs, and educational services. She was teacher, headmistress, nurse, cook, principal, everything.  She ensured they were afforded the same experiences as their sighted counterparts, and were held to the same expectations, including completing assigned chores and job assignments.

Knowledgeable music, Morrow was asked to help organize a blind quartet known as the Cotton Blossom Singers, to gain financial support and fundraise for the school. After their graduation, those youth would become the nucleus of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.

She married Alexander Foxx in 1937.

From Wikipedia: “Foxx’s teaching philosophy embraced a very modern dynamic of learning outside the walls of the classroom and of incorporating nature into lessons. She often took the children into the surrounding woods to hunt for plums and to pick wild berries. Ernestine Archie, a graduate of the school’s first class of 1934, recalled Foxx’s determination that the visually handicapped students be allowed to enjoy outings just as the sighted students did and that their senses of touch, taste, sound and smell made up for the deficiency in sight.”

Because of her philosophy, tenacity, and extraordinary work, as an innovative educator and trail-blazing teacher,  Martha Louise Morrow Fox laid a foundation for the education of black, blind students in Mississippi that leaves a legacy to this day.

You can read more about her here: http://www.aph.org/hall/inductees/foxx/

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