Black ASL

DOCUMENTARY

Just like spoken languages, sign languages have dialects…

Black ASL is the unique dialect of American Sign Language (ASL) that developed within historically segregated African American Deaf communities. Largely unknown to outsiders, Black ASL has become a symbol of solidarity and a vital part of identity within the Black Deaf community. Different uses of space, hand use, directional movement, and facial expression are some of the ways it sets itself apart from other varieties of ASL. With the perspectives of Black signers, Sign Language interpreters, and the scholars who have worked to uncover it, SIGNING BLACK in AMERICA explores the history and development of this unique and expressive variety of visual communication.

FREE VIEWING:

https://www.talkingblackinamerica.org/signing-black-in-america/sbia-events/

TEACHING RESOURCES: https://www.talkingblackinamerica.org/signing-black-in-america/sbia-resources/

RESEARCH

The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL offers readers unique insights regarding Black American Sign Language in vivid social, historical, and linguistic detail. Informed by universal linguistic principles, the authors offer carefully crafted observations and analyses that will be of interest to anyone who studies human language.”

—John G. Baugh, Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts and Sciences; Director, African and African American Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Black ASL has long been recognized as a distinct variety of American Sign Language based on abundant anecdotal evidence. The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL, originally published in 2011, presents the first sociohistorical and linguistic study of this language variety. Based on the findings of the Black ASL Project, which undertook this unprecedented research, Hidden Treasure documents the stories and language of the African American Deaf community. With links to online supplemental video content that includes interviews with Black ASL users (formerly on DVD), this volume is a groundbreaking scholarly contribution and a powerful affirmation for Black Deaf people.

This paperback edition includes an updated foreword by Glenn B. Anderson, a new preface that reflects on the impact of this research, and an expanded list of references and resources on Black ASL.

Companion Video: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLj06bPbAU0PqPVBXxOK2fLiond82P1Sag

Table of Black and White Deaf Schools in southern US states from The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL

Signed and produced by Dr. Joseph Hill at http://aslized.org/black-asl/

Presented by Dr. Joseph Hill at https://youtu.be/kxj6qhMJaL8


The Black ASL Project is a language project which aims to describe the linguistic features of a variety of American Sign Language (ASL) used by African American signers and usually known as Black ASL. The project is sponsored by Gallaudet University’s Department of Linguistics and Department of ASL and Deaf Studies and is supported in part by the Spencer Foundation and the National Science Foundation Project # BCS-0813736.



PERSPECTIVES

Convo Communications: "BASL is not what you think"

Black American Sign Language isn’t what you think. Watch and learn more about BASL from Evon Black, President of National Black Deaf Advocates.

Netflix: "How to Sign in BASL (Black American Sign Language)"


Chief Bilingual Officer Lecture Series: "Is ASL too White?"

Presented by a team of the interim Chief Bilingual Officer (Laurene Simms) and the interim Chief Diversity officer (Elizabeth Moore) titled: Is ASL too white? While unsettling to some, this title authentically reflects the beliefs of professionals and other citizens who are Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). Unfortunately, historically and even today, professionals in the fields of Deaf Studies, Deaf Education and Sign Language Interpreting are white and they do not adequately reflect the background characteristics of the Deaf persons who they serve. As such, white ASL professionals have controlled the development of ASL curriculum, standards, teaching and research methodologies that do not incorporate the values, beliefs and needs of BIPOC. To address this void, these webinar series will openly address and confront issues of racism, audism, linguistic oppression, and ethnicity. Throughout the webinars, panels of scholars and researchers of color will come together to share insights, experiences and collaborate to explore solutions for these issues to ensure a diverse and equitable profession for everyone.

Originally hosted via zoom on February 17, 2021 by Gallaudet University.

SOCIAL MEDIA

The Black ASL Project is a language project which aims to describe the linguistic features of a variety of American Sign Language (ASL) used by African American signers and usually known as Black ASL. The project is sponsored by Gallaudet University’s Department of Linguistics and Department of ASL and Deaf Studies and is supported in part by the Spencer Foundation and the National Science Foundation Project # BCS-0813736.

NEWS

Abenchuchan, Alex. “Black Deaf Center” Website Features Resources on Black Deaf Community. The Daily Moth, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FlJ6A2VtHE.


———. NTID Professor Dr. Joseph Hill on Intersectionality and Black ASL. The Daily Moth, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALW91e6WPTU&t=25s.


Belger, Karys. “Black American Sign Language Gains New Interest Thanks to TikTok App.” wgrz.com, 2021.

https://www.wgrz.com/article/features/black-american-sign-language-gains-new-interest-thanks-to-tiktok-app/71-2da68922-4eb2-44d4-8f86-378f936f8a5b.


Daniels, Nicole. “Lesson of the Day: ‘Black, Deaf and Extremely Online.’” The New York Times, January 29, 2021, sec. The Learning Network. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/learning/lesson-of-the-day-black-deaf-and-extremely-online.html.


OnMilwaukee. “Did You Know about Black American Sign Language?,” February 28, 2021. https://onmilwaukee.com/articles/black-history-month-sign-language.


Dunn, Renca. Deaf TikTok Video Goes Viral. The Daily Moth, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_XsB5XNPBw.


Gupta, Navya. “Linguistics Department Hosts Colloquium on Intersections of Race, Deafness.” The Michigan Daily, January 20, 2020. https://www.michigandaily.com/section/campus-life/linguistics-department-hosts-colloquium-intersections-race-deafness.


Jean-Baptiste, Christine. “Black American Sign Language (BASL): Black Deaf Canadians Seek More Research, Support for Community | Globalnews.Ca.” Global News, February 1, 2021. https://globalnews.ca/news/7607371/basl-black-american-sign-language-canada/.


———. The History behind Black ASL | Watch News Videos Online. Global News, 2021. https://globalnews.ca/video/7611441/the-history-behind-black-asl/.


Kenney, Tanasia. “The Hidden Treasure of Black Signs: How Segregation Led to the Unique Dialect of Deaf African-Americans.” Atlanta Black Star, December 2, 2017. https://atlantablackstar.com/2017/12/02/hidden-treasure-black-signs-segregation-led-unique-dialect-deaf-african-americans/.


Landecker, Heidi. “A Deaf Linguist Explores Black American Sign Language.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2014. https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/a-deaf-linguist-explores-black-american-sign-language.


NowThis News. TikToker Teaches Black American Sign Language, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73gjsdIefbA.

O’Donnell, B. R. J. “‘We Have 14 Black Deaf Americans With Ph.D.s—14.’” The Atlantic, August 16, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/08/gallaudet-franklin-jones-carolyn-mccaskill/536949/.


O’Leary, Bill. “What’s That You Say?” Washington Post, September 17, 2012, sec. Health & Science. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/whats-that-you-say/2012/09/17/95dc9ef6-010e-11e2-b260-32f4a8db9b7e_graphic.html.


Pavia, Will. “Nakia Smith: Video of Black American Sign Language Gets 1.5m Views.” The Times, January 4, 2021, sec. world. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nakia-smith-video-of-black-american-sign-language-by-texan-with-hereditary-deafness-gets-1-5m-views-cl7pdg9d8.


Phillips, Kyra. Celebrating and Preserving Black American Sign Language, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyCdz3Y_EdI&feature=youtu.be.


Phillips, Kyra, and Allie Yang. “Preserving Black American Sign Language in the Deaf Community - ABC News.” ABC News, February 18, 2021. https://abcnews.go.com/US/preserving-black-american-sign-language-deaf-community/story?id=75976659.


Sellers, Frances. “Perspective | How America Developed Two Sign Languages — One White, One Black.” Washington Post, February 21, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/21/how-america-developed-two-sign-languages-one-white-one-black/.


———. “Race Matters In Deaf Communication.” The Washington Post, September 19, 2012. https://live.washingtonpost.com/race-matters-in-deaf-communication.html.


Sellers, Frances Stead. “Sign Language That African Americans Use Is Different from That of Whites.” Washington Post, September 17, 2012, sec. Style. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/sign-language-that-african-americans-use-is-different-from-that-of-whites/2012/09/17/2e897628-bbe2-11e1-8867-ecf6cb7935ef_story.html.


Sharp, Sonja. “How Do You Sign ‘Black Lives Matter’ in ASL? For Black Deaf Angelenos, It’s Complicated.” Los Angeles Times, June 8, 2020, sec. California. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-06-08/how-do-you-sign-black-lives-matter-in-asl-for-black-deaf-angelenos-its-complicated.


Waller, Allyson. “Black, Deaf and Extremely Online.” The New York Times, January 23, 2021, sec. U.S. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/black-american-sign-language-tiktok.html.

ACADEMIC SOURCES

(in chronological order)

1960s

Croneberg, C. (1965). Appendix D: Sign language dialects. In W. C. Stokoe et al., A Dictionary of American Sign Language. Silver Spring, MD: Linstok Press. 313-319.

1970s

Anderson, G. B., & Bowe, F. G. (1972). Racism Within the Deaf Community. American Annals of the Deaf, 117(6), 617–619. JSTOR.

Woodward, J. (1976). Black southern signing. Language in Society 5:211-218.

Woodward, J., C. Erting, and S. Oliver. (1976). Facing and hand(l)ing variation in American Sign Language. Sign Language Studies 10: 43-52.

Woodward, J., and S. DeSantis. (1977). Two to one it happens: Dynamic phonology in two sign languages. Sign Language Studies 17: 329-346.

1980s

Hairston, E., and L. Smith. (1983). Black and Deaf in America: Are We that Different? Silver Spring, MD: TJ Publishers.

Crouch, R. and J. Hawkins. (1983). Out of Silence and Darkness: A History of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. Troy, AL: Troy State University Press.

Maxwell, M. M., & Smith-Todd, S. (1986). Black sign language and school integration in Texas. Language in Society, 15(1), 81–93. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500011659

Aramburo, A. (1989). Sociolinguistic aspects of the Black Deaf community. In C. Lucas (ed.), The Sociolinguistics of the Deaf Community. New York: Academic Press. 103-122.

1990s

Crockett, M. H. and B. Crockett-Dease. (1990). Through the Years 1867-1977. Light Out of Darkness: A History of the North Carolina School for the Negro Blind and Deaf. Raleigh: Barefeet Press Inc.

Lucas, C., and C. Valli. (1992). Language Contact in the American Deaf Community. San Diego: Academic Press.

Guggenheim, L. (1993). Ethnic variation in ASL: The signing of African Americans and how it is influenced by topic. In E. Winston (ed.), Communication Forum. Washington, D.C.: School of Communication, Gallaudet University. 51-76.

Lewis, J., C. Palmer, and L. Williams. (1995). Existence of and attitudes toward Black variations of sign language. In L. Byers, J. Chaiken, and M. Mueller (eds.), Communication Forum 1995. Washington, D.C.: School of Communication, Gallaudet University. 17-48.

Baer, A.M., A. Okrent, and M. Rose. (1996). Noticing variation in ASL: Metalinguistic knowledge and language attitudes across racial and regional lines. In L. Byers and M. Rose (eds.), Communication Forum, Washington, D.C.: School of Communication, Gallaudet University. 1-33.

Baynton, D. C. (1996). Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign Against Sign Language. University of Chicago Press.

Lane, H., R. Hoffmeister, and B. Bahan. (1996). Journey into the DEAF^WORLD. San Diego, CA: DawnSign Press.

Lewis, J. (1998). Ebonics in American Sign Language: Stylistic variation in African American signers. In Deaf Studies V: Toward Unity and Diversity. Conference proceedings. Washington, D.C.: College for Continuing Education, Gallaudet University. 229-240.

2000s

Lucas, C., R. Bayley, R. Reed, and A. Wulf. (2001). Lexical variation in African American and White signing. American Speech 76: 339-360.

Lucas, C., R. Bayley, and C. Valli. (2001). Sociolinguistic Variation in American Sign Language. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

Lucas, C., R. Bayley, and C. Valli. (2003). What’s Your Sign for PIZZA? An Introduction to Variation in American Sign Language. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

Jowers, S. (2005). Ending the Educational Exile of Black Deaf Children from Washington, D.C.: Miller v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Howard University.

Burch, S., & Joyner, H. (2007). Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson. University of North Carolina Press.

2010s


Solomon, A. (2010). Cultural and Sociolinguistic Features of the Black Deaf Community [Undergraduate, Carnegie Mellon University]. https://doi.org/10.1184/R1/6684059.v1

Lucas, C., & Bayley, R. (2011). Variation in Sign Languages: Recent Research on ASL and Beyond. Language and Linguistics Compass, 5(9), 677–690. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-818X.2011.00304.x

McCaskill, C., Lucas, C., Bayley, R., & Hill, J. (2011). The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL: Its History and Structure. Gallaudet University Press. http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/the-hidden-treasure-of-black-asl.html

Borum, V. (2012). Perceptions of Communication Choice and Usage Among African American Hearing Parents: Afrocentric Cultural Implications for African American Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. American Annals of the Deaf, 157(1), 7–15.

Bayley, R., Schembri, A., & Lucas, C. (2015). Variation and change in sign languages. In A. Schembri & C. Lucas (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and deaf communities (pp. 61–94). Cambridge University Press.

Hill, J. (2013). Special issues in collecting interview data for sign language projects. In C. Mallinson, B. Childs, & G. Van Herk (Eds.), Data Collection in Sociolinguistics: Methods and Applications (pp. 110–113). Routledge.

Blount, J. C. (2015). Mississippi ASL Project [Master’s, University of Mississippi]. https://egrove.olemiss.edu/etd/894/

Fenlon, J., & Wilkinson, E. (2015). Sign languages in the world. In C. Lucas & A. C. Schembri (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and Deaf Communities (pp. 5–28). Cambridge University Press.

Hill, J., McCaskill, C., Bayley, R., & Lucas, C. (2015). The Black ASL (American Sign Language) Project: An Overview. In J. Bloomquist, L. J. Green, & S. L. Lanehart (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of African American Language (pp. 316–337). Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199795390.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199795390-e-38

Lucas, C. (2013). Methods for Studying Sign Languages. In R. Bayley, R. Cameron, & C. Lucas (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Sociolinguistics (pp. 280–298). Oxford University Press. https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199744084.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199744084-e-14

Lucas, C., Bayley, R., McCaskill, C., & Hill, J. (2015). The intersection of African American English and Black American Sign Language. International Journal of Bilingualism, 19(2), 156–168. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367006913489204

Lucas, C., McCaskill, C., Bayley, R., & Hill, J. (2015). Sociolinguistics: Black ASL. In P. Boudreault & G. Gertz (Eds.), Sage Deaf Studies Encyclopedia (pp. 900–903). Sage Publications.

Bayley, R., Hill, J., Lucas, C., & McCaskill, C. (2017). Attitudes towards Black American Sign Language. Selected Papers from NWAV 45. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 23(2). https://repository.upenn.edu/pwpl/vol23/iss2/4/

Bayley, R., Hill, J., Lucas, C., & McCaskill, C. (2018). Perceptions of Black American Sign Language. In B. E. Evans, E. J. Benson, & J. N. Stanford (Eds.), Language Regard: Methods, Variation and Change (pp. 167–182). Cambridge University Press. https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/language-regard/1044C35209BA06D7AC83BCC9111AF5A9

Brentari, D., Hill, J., & Amador, B. (2018). Variation in phrasal rhythm in sign languages: Introducing “rhythm ratio.” Sign Language & Linguistics, 21(1), 41–76. https://doi.org/10.1075/sll.00010.bre

Hill, J. (2017). The importance of sociolinguistics of the socio-historical context: The case of Black ASL. Sign Language Studies, 18(1), 41–57.

Hill, J., & McCaskill, C. (2016). Reflections on the Black ASL Project. Sign Language Studies, 17(1), 59–63.

McCaskill, C., Lucas, C., Bayley, R., & Hill, J. (2016). Citizenship and education: The case of the Black Deaf community. In B. H. Greenwald & J. Murray (Eds.), In Our Own Hands: Essays in Deaf History, 1780-1970 (pp. 40–60). Gallaudet University Press.

Fisher, J. N., Tamminga, M., & Hochgesang, J. A. (2018). The Historical and Social Context of the Philadelphia ASL Community. Sign Language Studies; Washington, 18(3), 429–460. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.rit.edu/10.1353/sls.2018.0010

Hill, J. (2012). Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community. Gallaudet University Press. http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/bookpage/LAADCbookpage.html

Hill, J. (2013). Language ideologies, policies, and attitudes toward signed languages. In R. Bayley, R. Cameron, & C. Lucas (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Sociolingusitics (pp. 680–697). Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199744084.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199744084-e-33

Brown, M. C. (2013). On the Beat of Truth: A Hearing Daughter’s Stories of Her Black Deaf Parents. Gallaudet University Press.

Hill, J. (2015). Language attitudes in Deaf communities. In A. C. Schembri & C. Lucas (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and Deaf Communities (pp. 146–174). Cambridge University Press.

Knorr, R., & Whatley, C. (2015). The Segregated Georgia School for the Deaf: 1882-1975. Sunbury Press, Inc.

Anderson, G. B., & Dunn, L. M. (2016). Assessing Black Deaf History: 1980s to the Present. Sign Language Studies, 17(1), 71–77. https://doi.org/10.1353/sls.2016.0024

Toliver-Smith, A., & Gentry, B. (2017). Investigating Black ASL: a systematic review. American Annals of the Deaf, 161(5), 560–570.

Hill, J., Lillo-Martin, D., & Wood, S. (2019). Sign Languages: Structures and Contexts (1st Edition). Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Sign-Languages-Structures-and-Contexts-1st-Edition/Hill-Lillo-Martin-Wood/p/book/9781138089174

Tamminga, M., Fisher, J., & Hochgesang, J. (2019). Weak Hand Variation in Philadelphia ASL: A Pilot Study. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 25(2), 12.

Wright, M. H., Hill, J. C., & McCaskill, C. (2019). Sounds Like Home: Growing Up Black and Deaf in the South (20th Anniversary edition). Gallaudet University Press.

2020s

Bayley, R., Lucas, C., Hill, J., & McCaskill, C. (2020). The sociolinguistic ramifications of social injustice: The case of Black ASL. In R. Blake & I. Buchstaller (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to John Rickford. Routledge.