“You’d take me by the hand and lead me where you wanted to go.”

John Washington and Melva Washington Toomer

John Washington was born blind and with a severe loss of hearing that has become more extreme over time. He raised three children with his wife Fannie Ruth, who was also blind and deaf.

John, who did not finish high school, began reading books in braille and went on to teach others to read braille as well. He helped found the first braille magazine in the United States focused solely on issues important to the African American community.

At the age of 95, John sat down with his eldest child, Melva Washington Toomer, for a conversation about the pride he takes in his kids and to laugh over some of their childhood hijinks. This StoryCorps conversation was done with the help of a TeleBraille machine, which translated Melva’s typed questions into braille for John to read and answer. 

This animated short is presented as part of the new StoryCorps animation season Father Figures, in which father figures and their children share the strength and wisdom that they draw from each other.

Listen to John and Melva’s original StoryCorps interview.

Para subtítulos en español, haga click en el ícono de YouTube en la esquina derecha, y escoja “Spanish” bajo la opción de “settings” y “subtitles/CC.