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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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From Pity to Pride
Growing Up Deaf in the Old South

Hannah Joyner

Read chapter seven.
Read reviews: Choice, Daily News, Disability Studies Quarterly, The Journal of American History, The Journal of Southern History.


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From Choice

Since about 1980, social historians have given growing attention to the history of Americans with handicaps or disabilities. This short, well-written book centers on one group: children in the antebellum South who were born deaf and thus never learned to speak. Their families regarded such children as victims of “a terrible misfortune,” and almost everybody looked on them with pity. Surprisingly, the deaf-mutes themselves usually accepted their condition with composure, and came to “view themselves as competent and complete.” Joyner (recently at Gallaudet Univ.) acknowledges that there were undoubtedly deaf-mutes among all southern classes: poor whites, the middling yeoman class, and enslaved and free blacks. But those people left no records about their condition, so the author has focused on wealthy white families, who did. The elite had the money needed for the education of their children; furthermore, some of them saved all their family letters, now deposited in university archives and used with much skill by Joyner. By 1860, ten southern states had schools for the deaf, and the most interesting chapter in this book describes their methods and work. Summing Up: Recommended.

-- J. Z. Rabun, emeritus, Emory University

Hannah Joyner is an independent historian in Takoma Park, MD.

ISBN 1-56368-270-2, 6 x 9 casebound, 224 pages, references, index


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