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Formation of a Community
Westward expansion, industrial growth, new transportation systems, and increased government, church, and individual support of public education in the 1800s made it possible to establish schools for deaf children throughout the nation.
Deaf children attended residential schools and often lived at the “asylum” many months of the year. Schools became the place where children and adults formed a Deaf community, shared a visual language and common experiences.
On April 8, 1864, a year before the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress to "authorize the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, to confer degrees." The collegiate division of the institution was named...
Laurent Clerc arrived in Hartford in 1816 and brought with him the sign language of Paris, a city with a large Deaf community. He taught this visually sophisticated language to Gallaudet and other teachers. Students at the school brought other sign languages with them-from New...
In 1817, the first permanent school for deaf children opened in Hartford, Connecticut. At the time, most Americans still lived on farms or in small towns. The scattered population made it difficult to establish schools, especially for deaf children, who were few and far between....
". . . a cup of consolation, for the deaf and dumb who heretofore had been wandering in a moral desert, from the same fountain the Hinddo, the African, and the savage are beginning to draw the water of eternal life." Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was...
Sports, cheerleading, literary clubs, scouting, theatrical shows, holiday parties, and many other activities filled the after school hours of deaf students. Most schools also required students to attend religious services. Saturday trips to the town movie theater or ice cream parlor made weekends special. Students...
Deaf students, like most hearing students, learned reading, writing, mathematics, and science in the classroom. Teachers also discussed local and national news. For many students, teachers were the primary source of information about world events. At the American School for the Deaf, students sat in...
Many deaf children went away to schools before they could read and write, so parents had to be creative to communicate with their sons and daughters. Drawings and images cut from magazines helped parents send their affection and pass along news of home. Students also...
In the early 1800s, some wealthy families in Hartford, Connecticut, pooled their resources to help found churches and other institutions for the public good. Among those institutions was the first permanent school for deaf children — the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of...
Thousands of young deaf people came to residential schools to live and study together. A new culture was born, enriched by each passing generation that came to include folklore, poetry, oratory, games, and jokes, as well as distinctive rules of etiquette and sign naming practices....
Like other Americans of the 19th and early 20th centuries, most deaf people worked in trades. Schools for deaf students were among the first in the nation to offer vocational training in addition to academic courses. Sewing, cooking, and hairstyling were some of the classes...
Deaf students turned out newspapers and magazines in school print shops across the country. The papers kept students, faculty, and alumni informed about school events and brought important issues before parents and state legislators. Schools exchanged papers in an informal network known as the "little...
Before the Civil War, most southern states provided no formal education for African American deaf students. After the war, during the period known as Reconstruction, the federal government began to force social changes in the South. In 1868, North Carolina created a "Colored Department" alongside...
Following the example of the American School for the Deaf, other states began to establish schools for deaf children. Schools opened in New York in 1818, Pennsylvania in 1820, Kentucky in 1823, Ohio in 1827, and Virginia in 1838. By the 1850s, twenty schools had...
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, daily life in most boarding schools was highly regimented, and schools for deaf children were no exception. Students slept in rows and kept rigid weekday routines of dressing and eating together and moving as a group between...
Most schools offered courses in printing, shoemaking, and woodworking, baking, and tailoring for boys. Many graduates used the skills and trades they learned in school to enter these and other occupations. A few went on to college. Shoemaking and shoe repair was one of the...
Sports helped deaf students forge a special bond. Players learned sportsmanship, leadership, and teamwork. Students rooted for their classmates. Regional competitions with other schools for deaf children routinely drew large deaf audiences and were a time of celebration and sharing. Gallaudet players in this 1927...
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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