Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Deaf State proposal

Before the U.S. civil war, a deaf man named John J. Flournoy tried to get the U.S. Congress to set aside land in the western territories for the establishment of a deaf state. In 1855, the American School for the Deaf graduate made the recommendation because he believed the deaf could flourish without the restrictions of the hearing world. The primary means of communication would be sign language. The state never worked out but another of Flournoy's ideas did--he wanted a school for the deaf in Georgia and his prolific letter writing helped lead to the formation of the Georgia School for the Deaf. Flournoy, known for living an eccentric lifestyle, had a deaf brother and his father was a Georgia slaveholder. You can read more about this chapter in Deaf History in the Disability Studies Quarterly here or in Jack R. Gannon's book Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf Americans or John V. Van Cleve's A Place of Their Own: Creating the Deaf Community in America.