A 27-minute documentary film, Signing Black in America, will appear on some Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations on Saturday, June 27. (Check your local listings for dates and air times.) This film is described as “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 a  sense o f 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.”

Several members of the Gallaudet University community were involved in this video, including Dr. Carolyn D. McCaskill, ’77, G-’79 & PhD ’05, and Dr. Ceil Lucas, Professor Emerita. They, along with Dr. Joseph C. Hill, G-’04 & PhD ’11, of Rochester Institute of Technology and Robert Bayley of the University of California, Davis, authored the book The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL, which served as an impetus for the PBS documentary. Three other Gallaudet alumni contributed to the book.

This is the first episode of a four-part PBS miniseries following 2017’s Talking Back in America. More information is available at A DVD will be released in July; for ordering information, please visit

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