On the Beat of Truth
A Hearing Daughter's Stories of Her Black Deaf Parents
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Gallaudet University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Everyone has a story, and is the product of many more stories. The people’s historian elevates and exposes the wisdom, wit, humor, and reflections of “Everyday People,” or rich lives outside of the perimeter of celebrity. ...
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My mother, Thomasina Brown Childress, was a natural storyteller, telling me vivid stories as early as I can remember, from when I was three years old until her death at ninety-six. Stricken with crippling diabetes, renal failure, and ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura), ...
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There were many individuals who made this book possible as proofreaders, researchers, editors, and photographers as well as religious organizations offering quiet quarters to write. Special recognition is made to Ivey Wallace whose insightful questions shaped the content of this book. ...
Brown and Childress Family Trees
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1. A Policeman Comes A-Knockin’
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My father was the handsomest man I have ever known. He was deaf. My mother was the prettiest woman I have ever seen. She was deaf. Together they used American Sign Language. And that was the language of my youth. ...
2. Herbert Andrew Childress
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Until Daddy’s trial for indecent exposure, one day was much like any other day. Mama would be hunched over the sewing machine, guiding the material with her hands through the metal presser foot, simultaneously moving her own feet up and down on the floor pedal, making the machine miraculously stitch a plain piece of fabric into a garment. ...
3. Annie Dublin Nero and Martha Nero Brown
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Mama relished giving me an account of her relatives prior to her own birth. Yes, she enjoyed dramatizing events in Daddy’s life before he met her, but she reveled in sharing snatches of her own life, especially about her mother, Martha, a domestic worker; her father, Clarence, a farmer who became a bricklayer; ...
4. Thomasina Brown
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Months turned into years while Martha was working on the farm with Uncle Henry. My mother, who had come to the Raleigh School with just two dresses so many years ago, now made blouses, skirts, dresses, suits, and coats. By the time she turned fifteen years old, she was so adept at sewing that she soon acquired the skill of knitting and crocheting. ...
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The great occasion of Mama’s first pregnancy all happened on Ames Street, where she and my father lived with Mary and Grindaddy. The year was 1943. ...
6. Becoming Aware of Things, Part I
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I always knew Mama couldn’t hear me. But I am six years old when I finally realize that she has no notion of what a life with sounds is like. In private, she wants to know the meaning of sound, and she trusts me to explain without embarrassing her around other people. Her hands begin to probe, asking me several questions. ...
7. Silent Herbert
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The year is 1949. I am still six years old. Evening comes later and later since spring has come, and the advent of summer is just around the corner. I’ve crawled into my bed, which I share with Shirley, exhausted from working with Mama all day. I am so tired, I can’t sleep and crack my eyes open to stare at the darkness. ...
8. Becoming Aware of Things, Part II
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Mama and Daddy want me to interpret almost everything I hear, but they don’t share with me anything important to them. It isn’t fair, after all I am nine years old now. ...
9. Social Club and Church
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I am nine years old and in two months, I will be ten. It is 1953. It’s that time of year again, when “colored” deaf folks from all over the world flock to Washington, D.C., to their annual dance event—it isn’t annual, more like every three years or so, because the event alternates between cities each year: ...
10. Summer with Grandma
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It all begins with a letter from Grandma written with a lead pencil in small legible print. Mama rips open the envelope, carefully reads the letter, and then gives it to me to read, too. It begins with a thank-you for the five dollars my mother sent her. ...
11. From Chocolates to Fresh Goat and Pig Meat
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I love chocolates: chocolate cookies, chocolate candy, chocolate cake with thick chocolate icing. I must have been eleven years old and in the sixth grade when I discover that chocolate just plain makes me feel good and eases the troubles I have at home or school. ...
12. Crossword Pruzzles and Pearl Bailey
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Newspaper clippings are scattered all over the bed. A small pocket dictionary of synonyms lies in their midst. Nearby are still other dictionaries: a three-inch-thick Webster’s Dictionary, a thesaurus, a crossword puzzle reference book, two more pocket dictionaries, and countless other student dictionaries. ...
13. The Bench
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The year is 1955. I am twelve years old. Some days I find school outright exhausting. As I trudge along Fifty-Ninth Street approaching my house, I pass Mrs. Johnson’s home. ...
14. Becoming Aware of Things, Part III
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I am still a despondent twelve-year-old. I worry daily about doing my homework and getting A’s in my classes; I am anxious too about buying new clothes and where I’ll get the money to pay for them. ...
15. The Notebook
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It is an unbearably hot day, typical for Washington, D.C., with such intolerably high humidity that clothes stick to my body and perspiration rolls under my arms and down my back. School will be closing before long. The dense and stagnant air in my seventh-grade classroom refuses to move, making the air too heavy to even make a breeze. ...
16. From Happiness to Misery
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The year is 1956 and I am thirteen years old, promoted now to the eighth grade, “classification 8-6,” a class for all girls who are deemed to be academically gifted, by virtue of their test scores and superior grades. I am determined to excel in my studies because in my mind, getting A’s in all my classes is the only way I can show that I am equal to the other students ...
17. Asbury Park
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I am fourteen years old, and the prospect of going to a strange faraway place to earn money seems like a fairy tale to me. I am anxious to leave Washington, D.C., with its dark cloud of hurts and pains hovering over me, from all the angst at home to the trials and tribulations at school. ...
18. When Tempers Flare
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Today I must go to Daddy’s job, so I catch the bus on Dix Street and ride downtown to Daddy’s workplace. I show up unexpectedly at the shoe shop to ask for money. When I arrive, I walk to the back of the shop and watch him closely to see if he has been drinking. ...
19. Theodore Beamon
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The year is 1959, and I am sixteen years old. I am volunteering to help Mrs. Hughes in the library to check books in and out. It is near the end of May, and I am a tenth-grade sophomore, having learned my way around Spingarn High School (It is named for Joel Elias Spingarn, founder and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.) ...
20. Let It Go
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It is the late winter of 1960, and I am seventeen years old. I am at home, preparing for another school day. I sigh, telling myself I must find the energy from somewhere to go to school one more day. I am suffering from the winter blues, as I feel listless, tired, and apathetic about everything. ...
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Our home was the epicenter of comings and goings of African American deaf folk, and it was not unusual for unannounced visits from deaf out-of-towners, local residents, and even deaf students. In fact, the first African American student to graduate from Gallaudet University was Andrew Foster who was close friends with our family. ...
Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 25 photos
Publication Year: 2013