Deaf History: 1881–1920

The years 1881 to 1920 were momentous ones in Deaf history. Deaf communities grew tremendously in scale and organization, due largely to the quickening expansion of cities and Deaf education worldwide, both of which brought unprecedented numbers of Deaf people into close contact with one another. At the same time, an international movement dedicated to eliminating the existence of those communities, with their distinct languages and cultures, grew in tandem. The two developments were deeply linked. Organized and increasingly visible Deaf communities inspired fears that “a Deaf variety of the human race,” in Alexander Graham Bell’s phrase, was coming into being. Many hearing people, educators in particular, reacted by seeking to prevent deaf children from learning sign language, which in turn impelled Deaf people ...

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