Martha Louise Morrow Foxx

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Martha Louise Morrow Foxx (October 9, 1902–1975) was a pioneering educator of the blind in Mississippi. Her techniques and leadership are credited with guiding the Mississippi Blind School for Negroes towards integration, embodied by the creation of the Mississippi School for the Blind for both African American and whites in 1950.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, an eye disease left Martha partially blind as a child. She entered the Raleigh School for the Blind as a young child, until her family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when Foxx was eleven. There she was enrolled in the Overbrook School for the Blind, later beginning college at Temple University. After her first year she moved to Piney Woods, Mississippi to begin her career. In the summers after starting there she completed her college at the West Virginia State College, University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Hampton Institute, where she received her bachelor's degree.[2]

Piney Woods Country Life School[edit]

Foxx was instrumental in founding the Mississippi Blind School for Negroes on the Piney Woods School campus in April 1929.[3] Initially called the "house mistress," she was later entitled the principal of the school.[4][5]

In 1945, Helen Keller visited the Piney Woods School and appeared before the state legislature to appeal for funding.[6] In 1950 the new Mississippi School for the Blind for both white and African American students[7] was completed and moved to its new location on Capers Street in Jackson, Mississippi where Foxx was the principal.[8][9]

Laurence C. Jones, who founded the Piney Woods School in 1909, said of Foxx, "She ministered, not only to their intellectual needs, but to their moral and spiritual needs as well." Jones described Foxx's relationship to her charges as like that of a mother. She taught students domestic skills, how to make mats and cane seating, and music. "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," Jones said. As early as 1920 music groups performed across the South and Eastern U.S. on tours to gain support for the school.[10] Knowledgeable about her background in music, Jones asked Foxx to help organize a blind quartet known as the Cotton Blossom Singers, who recorded for Alan Lomax in 1937, and after their graduation became famous as the nucleus of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.[11]

Teaching methodology[edit]

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. Archie recalled how the dynamic teacher also claimed that these forays into nature sharpened the blind students’ "sixth sense," honing their spirits as well as their minds. Utilizing what at the time were progressive techniques, Foxx taught her students to read Braille and special large-print books.[12]

Foxx retired from her job as principal in 1969. She died in 1975.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harrison, Alferdteen (1983). Piney Woods School: An Oral History. University of Mississippi Press. p. 81. ISBN 1-57806-876-2. 
  2. ^ Harrison, Alferdteen (1983). Piney Woods School: An Oral History. University of Mississippi Press. p. 81. ISBN 1-57806-876-2. 
  3. ^ Harrison, Alferdteen (1983). Piney Woods School: An Oral History. University of Mississippi Press. p. 81. ISBN 1-57806-876-2. 
  4. ^ Harper Purcell, L. (1956) Miracle in Mississippi: Laurence C. Jones of Piney Woods. Comet Press Books. p 120.
  5. ^ American Foundation for the Blind. (1954) Directory of Activities for the Blind in the United States and Canada. Blind Canada Directories. p 58.
  6. ^ "Mississippi School for the Blind." Retrieved 2/16/08.
  7. ^ Mississippi School for the Blind, Mississippi Department of Education. Retrieved 2/15/08.
  8. ^ Wynn, R. "Five Blind Boys of Alabama keep up traditional gospel songs", The City Paper. Retrieved 2/16/08.
  9. ^ Harrison, Alferdteen (1983). Piney Woods School: An Oral History. University of Mississippi Press. p. 81. ISBN 1-57806-876-2. 
  10. ^ Harrison, Alferdteen (1983). Piney Woods School: An Oral History. University of Mississippi Press. p. 81. ISBN 1-57806-876-2. 
  11. ^ Harper Purcell, L. (1956) Miracle in Mississippi: Laurence C. Jones of Piney Woods. p. 120.
  12. ^ Harrison, Alferdteen (1983). Piney Woods School: An Oral History. University of Mississippi Press. p. 81. ISBN 1-57806-876-2.