Carolyn McCaskill remembers exactly when she discovered that she couldn’t understand white people. It was 1968, she was 15 years old, and she and nine other deaf black students had just enrolled in an integrated school for the deaf in Talledega, Ala.
When the teacher got up to address the class, McCaskill was lost.
“I was dumbfounded,” McCaskill recalls through an interpreter. “I was like, ‘What in the world is going on?’”
teacher’s quicksilver hand movements looked little like the sign
language McCaskill had grown up using at home with her two deaf siblings
and had practiced at the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf and Blind,
just a few miles away. It wasn’t a simple matter of people at the new
school using unfamiliar vocabularly; they made hand movements for
everyday words that looked foreign to McCaskill and her fellow black
students. [Read more]