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Signing Black in America

24 February 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Our guests will first present the Black ASL project and the documentary Signing Black ; a Q & A period will then follow the showing of the documentary.

Signing Black in America is the first documentary about Black ASL: the unique dialect of American Sign Language (ASL) that developed within historically segregated African American Deaf communities. Black ASL today conveys an identity and sense of belonging that mirrors spoken language varieties of the African American hearing community.  Different uses of space, hand use, directional movement, and facial expression are ways that Black ASL distinguishes itself as a vibrant dialect of American Sign Language. The African American Deaf community is now embracing their unique variety as a symbol of solidarity and a vital part of their identity.

Carolyn McCaskill and Ceil Lucas, Gallaudet University

Robert Bayley, University of California, Davis  

Joseph Hill, National Technical Institute for the Deaf/Rochester Institute of Technology

Early work on Black signing:  

Black signs were discussed by Carl Croneberg in an appendix to Stokoe, Casterline and Croneberg’s ASL dictionary in 1965 and in James Woodward’s 1976 Language in Society article about Black Southern Signing.

Transmission of ASL

Most Deaf children are born to hearing parents. Traditionally, residential schools are the sites where many children learn ASL.

Segregated Deaf schools in the South

The first school in the south for Black Deaf children was founded in North Carolina in 1869. The last school to be integrated was in Louisiana, in 1978. Black and White children were segregated for more than 100 years, ample time for a separate variety to develop.

Sign language interpreters will be present during this event