ACDHH regrets that we could not caption the video due to some technical issues. we have transcript the interview so please click below for transcript of interview.
Transcript of interview with Albert Couthen
February 18, 2014
National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA)
The National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA) is the official advocacy organization for thousands of Black Deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States. Black deaf leaders were concerned that Black Deaf and hard of hearing Americans are not adequately represented in leadership and policy decision-making activities affecting their lives so they established NBDA in 1982.
The Mission of the National Black Deaf Advocates is to promote the leadership development, economic and educational opportunities, social equality, and to safeguard the general health and welfare of Black deaf and hard of hearing people.
In 1980, a small group of local Black deaf people in the District of Columbia met with the Board of the Deaf Pride, an advocacy organization for the deaf, and expressed their concerns about the problems that prevent Black deaf from achieving their potential and the lack of leadership in the Black deaf community nationwide. Goals were developed and other skills that were usually ignored. The Black deaf group wanted to have an organization where they could promote leadership as well as share experiences, ideas, talents, and hopes. In July of 1980, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) held their 100th anniversary convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a Black Deaf Caucus was formed. The Black Deaf Caucus members 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 as delegates of the NAD. Caucus member Sandi LaRue issued a statement to the convention attendees that NAD must take action to communicate better with the black deaf community; encourage minorities’ involvement in the national and state organizations; and recruit more black deaf children in the Junior NAD and youth leadership camp.
In August of 1980, Charles “Chuck” V. Williams (of Ohio) had arrived in D.C. preparing to file a class action suit against the National Democratic and Republican Conventions for their refusal to televise a Sign Language interpreter for linguistic accessibility throughout the proceedings. Charles received an invitation to work with a local Black Deaf committee to plan a mini-conference by, for, and about black deaf experience. The first planning meeting in November saw Charles meeting with Lottie Crook (chair), Linwood Smith (vice chair), Zoe E. Page Collymore, Ernest Hairston, Williard Shorter, Shirley Johnson (interpreter coordinator), and Robert Howard (trainer/consultant). Philip Armstrong designed the original logo of black hands in its “ADVOCACY” sign position. The name “advocates” signaled the members’ interest to challenge the disappointing reality for betterment.
The first Black Deaf Conference “Black Deaf Experience” was held on June 25-26, 1981 at Howard University in Washington, District of Columbia. The conference marked an important milestone and provided a model for others to emulate. Nearly 100 Black Deaf people attended the first preliminary conference. Based on the accounts, the mini-conference was a phenomenal success, enough to cement the idea that there should be another conference. The objectives of the conference were:
To better inform ourselves and the community about being both Black and Deaf in America
To identify and examine the social, economical, educational, religious, political, and health issues and their impact on the Black deaf community
To formulate some strategies and problem solving techniques that participants can take back to their communities and use.
The conference’s workshops held over the two days involved six major areas: Education, Family, Social Services, Health and Mental Health, Employment, and Interpreting.
The First National Conference was held in Cleveland, Ohio on August 13-15, 1982, in the heart of downtown Stouffers Inn on the Square. The conference theme “Black Deaf Strength Through Awareness” drew 300 participants. Topics were related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Social Services, and Hearing Parents with deaf children. Charles “Chuck” V. Williams served as the conference chairperson. The debate was held as to whether to a national organization should be formed. The motion to declare the First National Conference a National organization passed.
The new organization National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA) was officially formed. The six founding members were instrumental in establishing NBDA: Lottie Crook, Ernest Hairston, Williard Shorter, Linwood Smith, Charles “Chuck” V. Williams, and Elizabeth “Ann” Wilson. The national executive secretary Albert Couthen was elected to coordinate the efforts to form a national office.
New Chapters established:District of Columbia Area Black Deaf Advocates became the first affiliated chapter, followed by Cleveland as the second chapter, and Philadelphia as the third chapter.
In 1983, the second National Conference, “Our Place In The Society”, was held in Philadelphia, PA. The conference marked the first beauty pageant for Black Deaf women. Ronnie Mae Tyson was crowned the first Miss Black Deaf America.
The National Bylaws were then developed with the input of the original 4 NBDA chapters: Washington DC, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and New York City. Various positions for officers were established. Organizational structure, policy, procedures, and guidelines were established.
NBDA National Conference would occur annually until 2005 as it was decided in 2004 to implement the regional system which grouped chapters under five regionals, giving them opportunities to host regional conferences during the even years. NBDA National Conference would continue every other year on the odd years. The purpose of this would also helpreduce the ever-growing number of board of representatives, allowing NBDA to function more streamlined and focus more on long-term projects.
The 5th Biennial Regional Conferences will be held at the following regions and cities:
Eastern Regional Conference – New York City, NY
Midwestern Regional Conference – Indianapolis, IN
Southern Regional Conference – Memphis, TN
Southwestern Regional Conference – Houston, TX
The 27th National Conference will be held in Louisville, KY.
More Notable History About NBDA
The first NBDA Conference was held in Cleveland, OH in 1982
South Carolina BDA became the first chapter with state name
Virgin Island BDA is the only chapter not located in USA mainland
Tennessee was the first state to hold two BDA chapters
NBDA has held conference outside USA twice. 1993 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and 1999 in Jamaica.
First Five Local BDA Chapters Established
District of Columbia Area Black Deaf Advocates, 1981
Cleveland Black Deaf Advocates, 1982
Philadelphia Chapter of Black Deaf Advocates, 1982
New York City Black Deaf Advocates, 1983
Atlanta Black Deaf Advocates, 1984
Six Founding Members of NBDA
Dr. Ernest Hairston
February 14, 2014
Schools and History of education for the Black Deaf:
When schools were segregated years ago, schools for the deaf followed suit. For over 100 years, black deaf children attended separate educational programs, housed either on separate campuses or in separate buildings on the same campus as the school for the deaf. This separation led to the development of a black dialect of American Sign Language, similar in nature to "black English."
When schools for the deaf became integrated, these separate buildings and campuses were either closed or incorporated into the rest of the school. Over time, the black dialect of ASL died out as the black deaf children were no longer separated from the white deaf children. Fortunately, the memories of this experience have been preserved in books such as Sounds Like Home. This segregation was encouraged by the National Association of the Deaf, which in 1904 recommended the establishment of separate schools for black deaf children.
This segregation meant that black deaf teachers were able to get jobs teaching in the separate programs. The programs produced the first black deaf teachers, Julius Carrett and Amanda Johnson, both of whom graduated from the North Carolina program for black deaf, and H.L. Johns, who was a graduate of the Maryland program for black deaf. All three were hired by the Texas Institute for Deaf, Dumb and Blind Colored Youth.
What follows is a listing of some of the segregated schools:
Alabama - School for Negro Deaf-Mutes and Blind (1891).
District of Columbia - The Kendall School at Gallaudet did not take in black deaf students until 1952, when ordered to by a court (before that the deaf black students attended school in Maryland). The story of the fight to get Kendall to take in DC black deaf students was documented in the film "Class of '52." Kendall then set up a separate building, but the segregation was brief as in 1954 the historic Supreme Court ruling on integration meant that Kendall had to become integrated.
Florida - Florida Institute for the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Colored Department (1895).
Georgia - Georgia School for the Negro Deaf (1882).
Kentucky - Kentucky had a school for the colored deaf. The Kentucky Standard newsletter of the Kentucky School for the Deaf, vol.130, Spring 2003 had a brief article on the history of the colored school (1885 to 1950s).
Louisiana - Louisiana School for the Deaf stayed segregated as late as 1978, being the last school for the deaf to become integrated. The black deaf Louisiana school was the Louisiana School for the Colored Deaf and Blind.
Maryland - School for the Colored Deaf and Blind (Maryland Institution for the Colored Blind and Deaf-Mutes) (1872).
North Carolina - North Carolina School for Colored Deaf and Blind (1869) - first school for deaf black children. The state established a Colored Department. One of the department's graduates, Roger D. O'Kelly, became a lawyer and he was profiled in the old Silent Worker, Volume 139, No.6. The article about Kelly, "The Only Negro Deaf - Mute Lawyer in the United States," can be viewed online at http://dspace.wrlc.org/view/ImgViewer?url=http://dspace.wrlc.org/doc/manifest/2041/40075
Oklahoma - Oklahoma Industrial Institution for the Deaf, Blind, and Orphans of the Colored Race.
South Carolina - South Carolina Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, Colored Department.
Tennessee - James Mason (black, hearing) established a school for black deaf, the Tennessee School for the Colored Deaf and Dumb.
Texas - Texas Institute for Deaf, Mute, and Blind Colored Youth (1887). William Holland, a former hearing slave who pushed for the establishment of a school for colored deaf, became its first superintendent in 1887.
Virginia - Virginia School for Colored Deaf and Blind Children (1909).
West Virgina - West Virginia School for the Colored Deaf and Blind (1919). One of the best-known deaf African Americans, Ernest Hairston, had attended this school just before it became integrated. Ancella Bickley also wrote a book, In Spite of Obstacles: A History of the West Virginia Schools for the Colored Deaf and Blind, 1926-1955. It was published by the West Virginia University Press in 2001, and appears to be out of print and VERY hard to find.
Gannon, Jack R., Deaf Heritage, National Association of the Deaf, 1981, p.3.
Paddon, Carol, and Humphries, Tom L. Inside Deaf Culture, Harvard University Press, 2005, pp. 50-54.
Hairston, Ernest, and Smith, Linwood. Black and Deaf in America: Are We That Different, T.J. Publishers, Inc., 1983.
February 11, 2013
Deaf African-American Organization
The first and best resource is the organization National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA). The NBDA holds annual conferences and has chapters nationwide. Another organization, the National Alliance of Black Interpreters is for African-American interpreters for Deaf and hard of hearing people.
The NBDA Archives Program aims to preserve and protect Black Deaf history. Black Deaf history has long been neglected. While there have been numerous books, films and articles on Deaf life, few have focused on the experiences of Black Deaf Americans. By learning more about the history and experience of Black Deaf people, all people will gain a better understanding of the diverse nature of American history. NBDA firmly believes that preservation and sharing of the Black Deaf experience both within the community and with persons of other races can only help to promote greater tolerance and understanding.
NBDA Archives Committee works in conjunction with Gallaudet University Archives Library to further develop the NBDA Archives program.
Currently NBDA history covers the following:
History of National Black Deaf Advocates
History of NBDA Executive Board
NBDA National & Regional Conference Chronology
Former Miss Black Deaf American Winners
Former Collegiate Black Deaf Leadership Institute Participants
Former Youth Empowerment Summit Participants & Peer Advisors
For more information on National Black Deaf Advocates, go to: www.nbda.org
National Alliance of Black Interpreters www.naobi2.org
February 7, 2013
Black Deaf History
Deaf African-American people have always faced the identity issue of whether they are black first or deaf first.
For many of African American deaf, their deafness comes secondary to their racial ethnic background. In a small sample of Deaf African Americans in Washington DC, 78% identified themselves as black before identifying their deafness. (Lane, 1996). Although their identity is mostly shaped historically with the African American community, the Black Deaf community also has their own history that began in the mid-nineteenth century when segregated special residential school for the 'colored' d/Deaf children were created. (Lane, 1996, Aramburo, 1990) It was in these settings that a black dialect of ASL developed. (Lane, 1996)
For many hearing African Americans, they do not come in contact with the d/Deaf individuals of any race, but especially Deaf African Americans. (Valentine, 1996) There is also quite a bit of racism amongst Deaf people and their community. There are racically segregated clubs in the Deaf community. (Lane, 1996, Padden 1988, Aramburo, 1990) The Deaf African American is a minority within a minority and are significant part of the African American heritage, the Deaf heritage, and the Black Deaf tradition. (Lane, 1996)
Being d/Deaf, in society, one's racial background is important and judgments are made based on race. It is also important to know that for many Deaf African Americans, they are misunderstood or discriminated by both the Deaf community and the African American community. You would think that because people of the Deaf community are part of a minority group, they would be more compassionate and understanding of people who are different, but that does not seem to be the case. The reality is, the Deaf community is a microcosm of society as a whole, which is struggling with racism and its existence.
Having knowledge of how Black Deaf individuals feels, may provide a sensitivity and cultural awareness of Deaf African Americans. There should be a consciousness of the importance of both their racial background and their d/Deafness.
For more resources on Black Deaf African American, click on link below:
February 3, 2013:
Overview of Black History Month
Black History Month, or National African American History month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of "Negro History Week", the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. presidents has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.
Origins of Black History Month
The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent. Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures.
Negro History Week (1926)
The first Negro History Week was met with a lukewarm response, gaining the cooperation of the Departments of Education of the states of North Carolina, Delaware, and West Virginia as well as the city school administrations of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Despite this far from universal acceptance, the event was nevertheless regarded by Woodson as "one of the most fortunate steps ever taken by the Association," and plans for a repeat of the event on an annual basis continued apace.
At the time of Negro History Week's launch Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race within broader society:
"If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. The American Indian left no continuous record. He did not appreciate the value of tradition; and where is he today? The Hebrew keenly appreciated the value of tradition, as is attested by the Bible itself. In spite of worldwide persecution, therefore, he is a great factor in our civilization."
By 1929 The Journal of Negro History was able to note that with only two exceptions officials with the State Departments of Educations of "every state with considerable Negro population" had made the event known to that state's teachers and distributed official literature associated with the event." Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro History Week during this initial interval, with the pages of the mainstream and black press aiding in the publicity effort.
Negro History Week was met with enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. Negro History Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday.
By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing awareness of black identity, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.
Black History Month
The expansion of Black History Week to Black History Month was first proposed by the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of the Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970.
In 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial, the informal expansion of Negro History Week to Black History Month was officially recognized by the U.S. government. President Gerald Ford spoke in regards to this, urging Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
Since then, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. Last year theme in 2013 was: At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington which marked the 150th and 50th anniversaries of two pivotal events in African-American history.
This year, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of Civil Right Act which was passed in 1964 outlawing outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (known as "public accommodations").