5 Videos to Celebrate Deaf History and Culture

Deaf History Month takes place every year from March 13 to April 15, and this year is no different!

This celebration of deaf culture incorporates three key events in deaf history.

According to the National Association of the Deaf, on April 8, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Gallaudet University charter. The act established a higher learning facility for the deaf and blind.

Another incredibly important milestone occurred on March 13, 1988 — a student-led protest at Gallaudet University. The Deaf President Now protest demanded — for the first time in the 124 year-history of the university — that the student body be led by a deaf president. When the student body took back the right to define and lead itself, it symbolized liberation for American deaf culture 

The video below describes this significant moment with a first-hand account of a former Gallaudet University employee:

The third major event celebrated in Deaf History Month is April 15, 1817. On this date, the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut was established, making it the first permanent public school for the deaf.

Deaf History Month calls attention to other important topics in deaf culture too. For example, American Sign Language (ASL) has a long and interesting history.

The following video gives an overview of ASL, explaining its origins and differences from other sign languages, like British Sign Language:

As you may have gathered, education plays a very important part in deaf history.

The Milan Conference, officially titled the Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf, was actually the first — yes, despite the name — international conference surrounding deaf education. The event took place in Milan, Italy in 1880.  

Until that time, deaf education had been relatively positive and effective – deaf people taught deaf students. However, in a move that would have repercussions for many decades to come, educators at the conference decided to ban use of sign language in mainstream schools.

Below is an overview of that decision and its effects on the deaf community:

Obviously, this “oralism” bias, as it is known, led to a massive disadvantage for deaf children in the education system. Essentially, the ban cut many deaf children off from learning a primary language in a way that we now take for granted.

There are still deaf people alive today who had to suffer through a poor education that treated deafness as a problem. And even now there are deaf children — particularly from underprivileged backgrounds — who struggle, as do all people who have unique educational needs.

Moving left-of-field — and betraying my love for all things Broadway — this Deaf History Month sees the opportunity to celebrate a far more recent milestone.

A recent and heavily acclaimed revival of the coming-of-age rock musical “Spring Awakening” featured — for the first time on Broadway — a cast of deaf and hearing actors.

Directed by Michael Arden and starring performers from LA’s Deaf West, the show made new Broadway stars out of performers like Marlee Matlin, Daniel N. Durant, Treshelle Edmond and Ali Stroker – who with this production also became the first person in a wheelchair to perform on Broadway in a leading role.

The musical received much critical acclaim and was praised for the way it integrated deaf culture and ASL into both the story and choreography of the production.

Here is a performance of “Touch Me” from the musical (adapted for a television studio) to give you an idea of just why adaptations that incorporate deaf talent must continue:

Finally, if all this has whetted your appetite to keep learning this Deaf History month, you can do so with the team over at ASL Stew. The YouTube channel provides educational videos about ASL, deaf culture and more.

Below is their video to kick off Deaf History Month:

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes

48 comments

Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig2 months ago

interesting history.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Joon m.
Past Member about a year ago

Your blog is extremely brilliant especially the quality content is really appreciable.pay for essay uk top

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Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle1 years ago

Good videos. We need more attempts to help people understand and create compassion for people with disabilities.

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Janet B.
Janet B1 years ago

Thanks

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Karen H.
Karen H1 years ago

My niece is learning ASL, which is an interesting "second language". She said there's a market for people who can sign to help those who are deaf.

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Jill S.
Jill S.1 years ago

Thank you for including us in your article!

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Judith Emerson
Judith Emerson1 years ago

THANK YOU for sharing this delightfully spirited & informative 1st video!!!!! :) & the Comments!!!!! :) Looking forward to the 2nd thru 5th when i have more time! :)

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Elaine Al Meqdad
Elaine Al Meqdad1 years ago

WONDERFUL ARTICLE!!!

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Jane R.
Jane R1 years ago

Thank you for this informative article. My university sorority, Delta Zeta, sponsors Gallaudet University. I was proud to fundraise for this worthy cause.

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