Deaf Culture Within Black Culture

Deaf African-American people have always faced the identity issue of whether they are Black first or deaf first. There have been many discussions on this issue. Resources are available for deaf African-American people, their families, and teachers.

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The first and best resource is the organization National Black Deaf Advocates. The NBDA holds annual conferences and has chapters nationwide. Another organization, the National Alliance of Black Interpreters, is for African-American interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing people.


A few books have been written about being deaf and African-American:

  • One book is Sounds Like Home, a book by a Black deaf woman (Mary Herring Wright) about growing up Black and deaf in the South.
  • Together with Linwood Smith, Ernest Hairston wrote the book Black and Deaf in America (ISBN 0932666183).
  • Another book is Deaf, Dumb and Black: An Accounting of an Actual Life of a Family by Mary M. Hall, published by Carlton Press Corp. in 1994.

Notable Deaf African-Americans

  • Deaf African-American Athletes: Curtis Pride was a deaf African-American baseball player. Kenny Walker is a deaf former professional football player. Derrick Coleman is the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. Retired WNBA superstar Tamika Catchings is also deaf.
  • Deaf African-American Entertainers: C.J. Jones is a deaf male African-American actor; Michelle Banks is a deaf female African-American performer.
  • Deaf African-American Writers: Connie Briscoe, former managing editor of American Annals of the Deaf, writes novels. Lindsay Dunn is a deaf African-American speaker and writer.
  • Other Deaf African-Americans: Claudia Gordon is an accomplished deaf African-American lawyer.

Historic Deaf African-Americans

One well-known deaf African-American in history is Andrew Foster, known as the father for the deaf in Africa.


Some articles and doctoral theses have been published about deaf African-Americans.

  • The Gallaudet University library in Washington, DC has a thesis on file, "A resilience model for transition of African-American deaf and hard of hearing students through four-year post-secondary programs," by Carolyn Estelle Williamson (2003). Another thesis also on file at Gallaudet University library is "Gender, racial, and deaf identity development and self-esteem in Black, deaf women" by Monica Annette Robb (2002).
  • The March 1998 (volume 143, issue no. 1) issue of American Annals of the Deaf had an article on Black deaf teenagers, "The association between racelessness and achievement among African-American deaf students."
  • Cambridge Press published the book Cultural and Language Diversity and the Deaf Experience, which includes the article "In Search of Self: Experiences of a Post-Lingually Deaf African-American," by Dianne K. Brooks.
  • The National Multicultural Interpreter Project website has downloadable pdfs of a cultural knowledge and sensitivity curriculum, including reference information.

Teachers and Parents of Deaf African-Americans

Teachers and parents of deaf African-American children may want to check out the archived Deaf and African-American Children article on It discusses ethnicity, educational, communication, and cultural needs. There is also a book, Black Deaf Students: A Model for Educational Success, that is based on interviews with nine academically successful deaf African-Americans.

Rare Deaf African-American Materials

Gallaudet University library also has some rare deaf African-American materials that can not be taken out of the library, such as the book The Mississippi School for Negro Deaf, 1950-1951. There are also clippings in the University Archives of articles about deaf African-Americans.

Video Material

Gallaudet University library also has a video library, which contains the following sample video materials about deafness and African-Americans:

  • Black ASL: The Socio-historical Foundations by Drs. Carolyn McCaskill and Ceil Lucas. This is a signed only video presentation from 2008 about a Black dialect of American Sign Language, Black ASL.
    • Archived editions of Deaf Mosaic online at Gallaudet University also had segments on deaf African-Americans. Research of the Deaf Mosaic video library turned up these segments on deaf African-Americans:
      Deaf Mosaic #611 did a segment on "I Didn't Hear That Color," a play about deaf African-American culture.
    • Deaf Mosaic #404 did a segment on Andrew Foster, who had recently died.
    • Deaf Mosaic #112 did a segment on Earnest Hairston.
    • Deaf Mosaic #202 did a segment on the late Linwood Smith, Jr.
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