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Signing Black In America

Airs Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

“Signing Black In America”  is the first documentary about Black ASL: the unique dialect of American Sign Language (ASL) that developed within historically segregated African American Deaf communities. 

Black ASL today conveys an identity and sense of belonging that mirrors spoken language varieties of the African American hearing community.  Different uses of space, hand use, directional movement, and facial expression are ways that Black ASL distinguishes itself as a vibrant dialect of American Sign Language.

What is Black American Sign Language?

Just like spoken languages, sign languages have dialect. 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. This is an excerpt from the documentary, "Signing Black in America."

The African American Deaf community is now embracing their unique variety as a symbol of solidarity and a vital part of their identity. 

With the perspectives of Black signers, Sign Language interpreters, and the scholars who have worked to uncover it, the film explores the history and development of this unique and expressive variety of visual communication.

“Signing Black In America” began screening in 2020 and is the first episode of a four-part miniseries following the feature-length documentary "Talking Black In America" (2017).

Signing Black In America: promo

The film highlights the history and development of Black American Sign Language, a vibrant dialect that today conveys an identity and sense of belonging that mirrors spoken language varieties of the African American hearing community.

Credits:

The Language and Life Project at NC State is a non-profit outreach education endeavor to document and celebrate dialects, languages, and cultures of the United States. The LLP seeks to build awareness and appreciation of linguistic diversity through educational resources, television programs and award-winning documentaries. Visit The Language and Life Project on Facebook.

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