Deaf History Month: People who make a culture

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Deaf people throughout history and today are leaving major impacts on society and changing the world for the better.

Jenna Jordan, Opinion Writer

Deaf History Month runs from March 13 through April 15 and is a period of time to remember and celebrate the efforts, contributions and marks that the deaf and hard of hearing have left in America. There are many others, but here are a few that you should hear about.
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

Although Gallaudet was neither deaf nor hard of hearing, he went on to co-found the first school for the deaf in America. He was inspired and driven by a young girl named Alice Cogswell after finding out that his younger siblings wouldn’t play with her because she was deaf. His co-founder Laurent Clerc taught him sign language after Gallaudet’s stint of soul-searching and seeking of deaf knowledge in Paris. Together they opened The American School for the Deaf in 1817 in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Laurent Clerc


Along with being co-founder of the first school for the deaf in America, Laurent Clerc helped to develop what we now call American Sign Language. While he was born hearing at a year old, he fell into a fire that caused him to become deaf. He studied sign language in France before leaving for the United States with Gallaudet. Clerc soon after became the first teacher of sign language in America.
Andrew Foster


Often regarded as the “Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet of Africa,” Foster has been credited with opening over 30 schools for the deaf in 13 African countries. He grew up deaf and attended multiple schools for the deaf. He graduated from Gallaudet University, a university for the deaf founded by the son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, with a degree in education.
Nyle DiMarco

Actor, model and Deaf activist Nyle DiMarco does not see deafness as a disability, but instead as an opportunity to spread awareness for deaf culture. In 2016 he founded the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, the goal of which was to provide access to resources for deaf children and their families. He is also an avid spokesperson for Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K), which promotes kindergarten readiness in America by providing learning resources for both ASL and English.
Juliette Gordon Low


You may know Low as the founder of the Girl Scouts of America, but what you may not have known is that she was deaf. Low became interested in forming bonds between young girls and teaching them important skills like learning to cook, knit, start a fire and perform first aid. After mastering these skills herself she established the first girl scout troop in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, and it only grew from there.
Marlee Matlin


Deaf actress and model Marlee Matlin has made quite the name for herself. Starring in movies and TV shows such as Children of a Lesser God, Switched at Birth, The Magicians and Dancing With the Stars, Matlin is quite well known. She also has both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her on-screen talent.
Sean Forbes


Modern day hip-hop and rap artist Sean Forbes became deaf at just a few months old. By the age of 10, Forbes had learned to play the drums and guitar and was writing his own songs. Forbes also helped found the Deaf Professional Arts Network (D-PAN). He has released two albums and has sold out shows, including The Deaf and Loud Symphonic Experience.
Julius Wiggins


Julius Wiggins was an African-American advocate in Canada for many Hebrew Societies of the deaf. He wanted to make something special for the deaf community, so he created Silent News, a newspaper for the deaf. Wiggins released his first issue of Silent News in 1969.
Gertrude Ederle


Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Not many people know that she was deaf. She is well-known for her accomplishments both in the Olympics and for her record breaking swim across the English Channel.
Calbraith Perry Rogers


Calbraith Perry “Cal” Rodgers was the first man to pilot a transcontinental flight. Alongside this incredible feat he was the first deaf man to receive his piloting license. Rodgers also happened to be one of the first civilians to ever purchase an airplane.
Sue Thomas


Sue Thomas was a young woman who proved that anyone can do anything they want to if they set their mind to it. She was very driven as a young adult and became an expert at reading lips. Because of this skill, Thomas worked as an undercover agent for the FBI for four years. After her retirement she founded The Levi Foundation, a program that helps to train guide and service dogs for people with multiple disabilities.
Ruthie Jordan


If you know anything about the deaf community, you’ve probably heard of Ruthie Jordan. She is an influencer, activist, educator and storyteller. Ruthie travels the country advocating for the deaf and sharing her story, letting others know that they are not alone.
Other notable deaf people include Thomas Edison, Beethoven, Sean Berdy, as well as Stephen Colbert and Millie Bobby Brown who were all deaf in one ear. Being deaf doesn’t bring down anyone’s worth. We all live on the same earth and we’re all working for a better world, together.