A Walk through Deaf History

Deaf History

The history of the Deaf community has gotten short shrift in the broad currents of mainstream historiography. People of varying degrees of deafness have a profound history within the United States and around the world, even if most historians (with a few notable exceptions) have paid little attention to their struggles and experiences so far.

This year, on May 4th, members of the Deaf community plan to launch a wave of concerted action to bring attention to their own civil rights and political, economic, and legal concerns, over a quarter century since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed — when the law’s full potential seems far from fulfilled.  As part of the Deaf Grassroots Movement, activists plan to rally in the nation’s capitol.  According to its own manifesto, the DGM aims

for the Deaf to live without being judged, to protect communication accessibility , to improve the Deaf education system, and to help grow the economic power of the Deaf diversity , with respect to the community and the pursuit of life, liberty, and equality.

In coordination with this mobilization, a History graduate student at Georgia State University has created an innovative project for the public to learn more about Deaf history.  Shawn Clements created the following timeline as part of her coursework for the digital history graduate course at GSU. Clements learned how to work with the great Timeline JS program to create an engaging introduction to key moments in Deaf history, from the evolution of American Sign Language to the critical Deaf President Now struggle at Gallaudet University, the premier college for Deaf students in the United States and the first of its kind in the world, in 1988.

Please explore Clements’s instructive project, learn about Deaf history, and share with your friends.

Deaf History


Shawn Clements is a Master’s student at Georgia State focusing on Deaf history. Using her skills in social media and arts such as photography, she is attempting to create exhibits for the Deaf that are hearing friendly. She currently works at the Breman Jewish Museum.