MSS 168

National Black Deaf Advocates, est. 1981

National Black Deaf Advocates Collection, 1975-2002

Gallaudet University Archives

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Gallaudet University Archives

Call No.: MSS 168


Title: National Black Deaf Advocates Collection, 1975-2002.

Quantity: 12.5 Linear Feet (25 document boxes).


Note: This document last updated 2008 August 8.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: Albert Couthen donated the collection in May 2005.

Processed by: Michael J. Olson and Janna Erlandson, 2008.

Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions. Photocopies may be made for scholarly research.

Related Material in the Archives:

See ALADIN for a full listing.


  • National Black Deaf Advocates. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: Special Topics

African Americans

  • National Black Deaf Advocates. Gallaudet University Archives, Call Number: African Americans

Historical Sketch

The National Black Deaf Advocates was formed in Washington, DC, in 1981. Prior to the organization’s establishment, a group of local Black Deaf people in the District of Columbia met with the Board of Deaf Pride-an advocacy organization for the deaf-and expressed their concerns about problems that the Black Deaf faced in their daily lives. The Black Deaf wanted to have an organization where they could promote leadership as well as share experiences, ideas, talents, and hopes. Another important issue recognized was a lack of leadership in the Black Deaf community nationwide. In the summer of 1980 the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) held a convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a caucus of Black Deaf in attendance brought up the issues of the NAD’s refusal to address the concerns of the Black Deaf community, as well as the lack of representation of the Black Deaf as delegates of the NAD.

In the late summer of 1980, soon after the NAD convention had adjourned, Charles Williams, a Deaf African American, came to Washington, DC, to file a class action suit against the National Democratic and Republican Conventions for their refusal to provide a sign language interpreter during televised meetings. At that time, Williams was invited to work with a local Black Deaf committee to plan a mini-conference about the Black Deaf experience. A planning committee came to fruition and a small conference was held at Howard University in Washington, DC, from June 25th to the 26th in 1981. The theme of the gathering was the “Black Deaf Experience” and nearly 100 Black Deaf came to the first preliminary conference. The meeting was very successful and the new organization, the National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA), was formed. The members decided that conferences would be held annually in different cities. The first national conference of the NBDA was held in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1982.

The first NBDA beauty pageant took place at the 1983 National Black Deaf Advocates Conference in Philadelphia. Ronnie Mae Tyson was crowned the first Miss NBDA.

During the early years of the National Black Deaf Advocates, several chapters were formed-the first one was in the District of Columbia, followed by Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York City, Atlanta, and other cities.
In 1997 a newly-formed program called the Youth Empowerment Summit, known as Y.E.S.!, was created to encourage Black Deaf youths to participate in the NBDA and to assist in leadership training.

Scope and Content

The Collection of the National Black Deaf Advocates consists of letters, reports, minutes of meetings, program books, membership lists, awards, constitutions and bylaws, guidelines and manuals, newsletters, magazines, newspaper clippings, contracts, and logos. Photographs are included in the collection.

The collection, which consists of approximately 21,250 pages, dates from 1975 to 2002. The bulk of the collection consists of the following: documents related to each chapter of the NBDA; incoming and outgoing letters; and reports written by the planning committee in relation to annual conferences. Also included in the collection are minutes from Board and general meetings, program books of the NBDA conferences and Miss NBDA Pageants, biographies of well-known Black Deaf persons, and lastly, early documents of Deaf Pride, Inc.

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Conference Files

Box 1 (Folder 1) – Box 9 (Folder 5) 1980-2001

In this series are letters and reports written by the planning committee in preparing for an annual conference, minutes from Board and general meetings, program books for the NBDA conference and also for the Miss NBDA Pageants, and letters and reports for the pageant contests.

Series 2: Office and General Files

Box 9 (Folder 6) – Box 16 (Folder 11) 1980-2002

Included in this group are letters-incoming and outgoing-written by the presidents of the NBDA, along with other officers such as vice-presidents, secretaries, and treasurers. There are also membership lists, constitutions and bylaws, and financial reports. Guidelines and manuals are included in this series along with files from the Combined Federal Campaign of which NBDA received money from contributions. Lastly, there are letters and reports for the program called Y.E.S.!

Series 3: Chapter Files

Box 16 (Folder 12) – Box 20 (Folder 12) 1980-2001

This sequence contains letters, reports, and constitutions and bylaws of each chapter. The chapter of the District of Columbia was the first to organize; therefore, there is a sizable collection of documents of this chapter included.

Series 4: General Files

Box 20 (Folder 13) – Box 25 (Folder 14) 1975-2000

Within this series are articles, newspaper clippings, and newsletters related to Black Deaf people and the NBDA. Biographies of well-known Deaf Black persons are included. Also, there are some folders that contain information on the Andrew Foster Statue Project, Black Deaf History Month, the history of the NBDA, and Deaf Pride, Inc.

Click Here to View the Folders List

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