Black ASL: the socio-historical foundations

Ceil Lucas, Robert Bayley, Carolyn McCaskill

Gallaudet University, United States of America University of California, Davis, United States of America


This paper will report on the socio-historical foundations of a variety of American Sign Language (ASL) commonly referred to as Black ASL, described by Hairston and Smith (1983) as "a Black way of signing used by Black people in their own cultural milieu- among families and friends, in social gatherings, and in deaf clubs." While the American School for the Deaf (ASD) was established for white students in 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut, no attempt was made to provide education for Black deaf students until the 1850s. North Carolina established the first school for Black deaf children in 1869. In the early 1950s, thirteen states still had segregated schools for Black deaf children and as late as 1963, eight states still did.As part of the foundation for an on-going study of the phonological, syntactic and lexical structure of Black ASL, this paper will review the history of education for Black deaf children and discuss the implications of this history for the structure and use of Black ASL.

Session: Paper session
Variation 9
Friday, April 4, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 15