Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson
Junius Wilson (1908-2001) spent seventy-six years at a state mental hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina, including six in the criminal ward. He had never been declared insane by a medical professional or found guilty of any criminal charge. But he was deaf and black in the Jim Crow South. Unspeakable is the story of his life. Wilson was born and lived the first years of his life with his family in a small town near Wilmington, North Carolina. At age seven he was sent to the residential State School for the Colored Blind and Deaf, where he learned Raleigh Sign Language, a unique form of signing taught only to blacks at that school. After a minor infraction at age sixteen, he was dismissed from school and sent back home, where he was falsely accused of attempted rape in 1925. Judged insane by the court, he was committed to the criminal ward of the State Hospital for the Colored Insane. Wilson was castrated and forced to work on the hospital farm for decades. He remained incarcerated for almost all of his life. Although authorities knew from the 1960s onward that Wilson was not insane, they did not know how to integrate him into society. They determined that keeping him institutionalized was the most benevolent course of action. In 1990, when social worker John Wasson reviewed Wilson's records, he was shocked by what he read. Lawsuits brought against the state by disability rights lawyers led to Wilson's release from the locked wards in the 1990s. He spent the final years of his life in a cottage on the grounds of the hospital, where staff continued to look after his daily needs. Junius Wilson's life was shaped by some of the major developments of twentieth-century America: Jim Crow segregation, the civil rights movement, deinstitutionalization, the rise of professional social work, and the emergence of the deaf and disability rights movements. There is much to learn and remember about Junius Wilson - and the countless others who have lived unspeakable histories.
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One Misstep 19081924
Walls 1930s1950s 43 2 From One Institution to Another 19241931
Classified 1970s1981 125 4 Renaming Remaining 1950s1970s
Vital Signs 1980s1991
Almost Home 1994 266 8 New Places New Faces 19931994
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