In 1847, a group of ambitious authors launched a new publication with a bold statement: “There is not now, and never has been, in the English language, a periodical similar to that which we have decided to issue.” The periodical was the American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb, and by concerning themselves with deaf education and deaf culture, its authors were making a bold statement about the value of people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Now published as The American Annals of the Deaf, the magazine has been in existence ever since—and its early years offer a fascinating glimpse into changing views of deafness and deaf education. Today, the journal is the world’s most widely read English-language journal about deafness. Back then, it was the publication of the American School for the Deaf, a Connecticut school founded in 1817 that still exists today.
The journal reflects biases that painted deafness and mutism as tragic handicaps that prevented people from accessing religion and mainstream life.
Its early volumes reflect deaf education’s infancy. One of the articles in its first volume, “On the Natural Language of Signs,” paints a picture of how deaf people communicated before American Sign Language (which also came into [...]