On the Beat of Truth

A Hearing Daughter’s Stories of Her Black Deaf Parents

1st Edition

By Maxine Childress Brown

Categories: African American Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, Deaf Communities and Cultures, Biography / Memoir
Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781563685521, 184 pages, June 2013
Ebook : 9781563685538, 184 pages, June 2013
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Brown is the oldest of three hearing daughters born to deaf, working-class African American parents. Both parents were born in the South and attended segregated schools for Black deaf and blind children; later they settled in Washington, DC. Brown tells stories of her parents’ youth, their tenacious work ethic, their incredible pride of family, and their interactions with the deaf African American and white communities. Brown also relates her own experiences as her parents’ interpreter, and how she learned to live in both the deaf and hearing worlds.



As an African American woman born in 1943, Maxine Childress Brown possessed a unique vantage point to witness the transformative events in her parents’ lives. Both came from the South -- her father, Herbert Childress, from Nashville, TN, and her mother, Thomasina Brown, from Concord, NC. The oldest of three daughters, Maxine was fascinated by her parents’ stories. She marveled at how they raised a well-respected, middle-class family in the midst of segregation with the added challenge of being deaf.
       Her parents met in Washington, DC, where they married and settled down. Her father worked as a shoe repairman for $65 per week for more than 15 years. A gifted seamstress, her mother gave up sewing to clean houses. Because of their modest means, Maxine and her sisters lived more than modest lives. When Maxine’s tonsils became infected, her parents could not afford the operation to have them removed. For her high school prom, her mother bought her a dress on credit because she had no time to sew. Herbert Childress showed great love for his young daughters, but events turned him to bitterness and to drink. Throughout all, Thomasina encouraged her girls, always urging them to excel. She demanded their honest best with her signature phrase, her flat hand raised from her mouth straight up in the air, “on the beat of truth.”


Maxine Childress Brown is an RID-certified interpreter and former assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, and the State University of New York at Geneseo.



On the Beat of Truth is utterly engaging. The intimate details about the author’s family life were presented in a dynamic storytelling mode that compelled me to recall similar moments of amazement and discovery from my own childhood experiences. I could not put this book down. Take your own journey and let the stories tug at your heart!

— Carolyne S. Blount, Executive Editor, About...Time Magazine

(Childress Brown's) book is a candid and vivid memoir of the challenges and triumphs that she and her sisters, Shirley and Barbara, faced as hearing children...On the Beat of Truth has been well received ...by national and local educators of deaf students.

— Meredith Low, Democrat and Chronicle

Advance Praise

On the Beat of Truth is a delightful memoir written by a superb storyteller. Ms. Brown takes the reader on a deeply moving and insightful journey into the world and life experiences of an African­ American Deaf family and their three hearing children residing in the south during the early to mid-­twentieth century. I applaud Ms. Brown on this valuable contribution to literature about Deaf history and culture.

— Glenn B. Anderson, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

This book immerses the reader in the challenges and triumphs of Maxine's and her family's lives as well as the importance of family relations, communication, and respect for cultural diversity. It beautifully introduces Black Deaf culture to new parents of Deaf children and their siblings, students in the field of Deaf Education, new friends of Deaf people, and anyone who enjoys a good story. I expect this book to not only introduce Black Deaf culture to folks but also allow Deaf people and their hearing counterparts to reflect on their own experiences as they read it.

— T. Alan Hurwitz, President Emeritus, Gallaudet University

Maxine Childress Brown is a gifted storyteller and a wonderful human being. On The Beat Of Truth kept me fascinated from the very first page. It is easy to read, and it can be appropriate for almost any age group. I felt a closeness to the Childress family and recognized many places in Washington, DC. This gave me a feeling of inclusiveness and, more than once, brought a smile to my face. I'm honored to highly recommend this book. 

— Shirley J. Allen, Retired Professor, National Technical Institute for the Deaf

This book epitomizes the never-told stories of the experiences of hearing children of Black Deaf parents, particularly during the era of segregation. A must read book that illustrates the trials and tribulations of Black children of Deaf adults (CODAs). 

— Benro Ogunyipe, former President and Board Chair, National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc., and President Barack Obama's appointee to the National Council on Disability

Maxine Childress Brown, a child of deaf parents, understands how lack of education and access affects the opportunities available to deaf families. Her candid and poignant memoir reminds us that the deaf community’s achievements in the struggle for equal recognition, rights, and self-determination owe a debt of gratitude to those who came before us. I am delighted to recommend her book.

— Gerard Buckley, President, National Technical Institute for the Deaf