A Mighty Change
An Anthology of Deaf American Writing, 1816-1864
Publication Year: 2000
Published by: Gallaudet University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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A Mighty Change celebrates writing by deaf people in the United States between 1816 and 1864. While histories of the American deaf community often quote deaf people, I believe this anthology is the first to foreground deaf Americans’ words during this transformative period, to let them share ...
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‘‘I need not tell you that a mighty change has taken place within the last half century, a change for the better,’’ Alphonso Johnson, the president of the Empire State Association of Deaf-Mutes, signed to hundreds of assembled deaf people in 1869.1 Johnson pointed to an important truth: the first half of the nineteenth ...
PART ONE - Individual Authors
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1. Laurent Clerc
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The most influential deaf person in America during the first half of the nineteenth century was Laurent Clerc. With his intelligence, gentlemanly demeanor, sign language skills, and ability to read and write, Clerc gave living proof to the public that deaf individuals could be educated, and educated well. He came from France in ...
2. James Nack
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James Nack was one of the first deaf people to publish a book in the United States. Born hearing in New York City on January 4, 1809, he grew up in an impoverished family. His older sister taught him at home, and he could read by age four. When he was ...
3. John Burnet
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When Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was sailing to America with Laurent Clerc in 1816, he told Clerc that he wanted to write ‘‘some few directions for parents who have deaf and dumb children.’’ Gallaudet apparently never got around to publishing such ...
4. John Carlin
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John Carlin was not only one of the most accomplished deaf Americans in the nineteenth century, but also one of the most contradictory. A successful artist, writer, and lecturer, he was ambivalent about his deaf identity. He lost his hearing in infancy, used ...
5. Edmund Booth
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Unlike the other authors in this volume, Edmund Booth spent most of his adult life on the American frontier. A tall, imposing man, he moved out west to Iowa when he was twenty-nine. Like many settlers, he did a variety of jobs. He helped construct ...
6. Adele M. Jewel
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Adele M. Jewel’s work provides a rare glimpse into the life of a lower-class deaf woman before the CivilWar. Jewel (née George), a homeless woman in Michigan, wrote primarily to earn money to support herself and her mother. Her pamphlet, A Brief Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Adele M. Jewel (Being Deaf and Dumb), was printed ...
7. Laura Redden Searing
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Laura Searing was born as Laura Catherine Redden, in Somerset County, Maryland on February 9, 1840. She became deaf at age eleven due to meningitis. By that time, her family was living in St. Louis, so she enrolled in the Missouri School for the Deaf in Fulton. She wrote the essay included here when she ...
PART TWO - Events and Issues
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8. 1850 Grand Reunion
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On September 26, 1850, over two hundred alumni of the American Asylum for the Deaf assembled in Hartford, Connecticut. Together with the two hundred current students, it was the largest gathering of deaf people ever. They came from all over the country to pay tribute to Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins ...
9. Dedication of the Gallaudet Monument
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In September 1851, just one year after the grand reunion in Hartford, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet died from a form of dysentery. His passing prompted an outpouring of tributes. The directors at the American Asylum called him ‘‘a central power in a movement destined to effect great good in the world.’’1 Harvey Peek, ...
10. Debate Over a Deaf Commonwealth
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In the late 1850s, deaf people had a remarkable discussion in the pages of the American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb about a proposal to create a separate deaf state in the West. The idea was not altogether new. Years before, when Congress gave land in Alabama to the American Asylum, Laurent Clerc had suggested selling part of ...
11. Inauguration of the National Deaf-Mute College
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In 1864, during the CivilWar, Laurent Clerc traveled toWashington, D.C., to take part in the official opening of the National Deaf-Mute College. For the seventy-eight-year-old Clerc, it must have been a gratifying event to witness. When he had arrived in the United States almost a half-century before, the nation had no ...
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Page Count: 278
Illustrations: 10 photographs
Publication Year: 2000
Series Title: Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies Series