ACTIVITIES & CRAFTS

History for Kids: Deaf President Now!

Come learn about some cool deaf history! Today we’ll be learning about the Deaf President Now (also known as DPN) movement at Gallaudet University, Washington D.C., during March 1988. By reading this article your kids can gain an introduction to the deaf community, its values, and most importantly it’s history! You can read about Deaf President Now in the classroom or at home, kids will love learning about this inspiring movement.

History for Kids: Deaf President Now clip art of four cartoon people with their fists in the air holding sign that says "Deaf President Now" in front of image of Gallaudet University on clear day with blue sky-Kids Activities Blog.
Deaf President Now!

Deaf president now for kids

Background Information

Gallaudet University is one of the leading universities for the deaf in the whole world. It was founded in 1864 in Washington D.C. by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. The university was built to educate deaf people from all around the United States and stand as one of the leaders of deaf education.

Image of Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. on clear day with blue skies-Kids Activities Blog.
Gallaudet University, Washington D.C.

For almost all of its existence, Gallaudet University was lead primarily by hearing staff, faculty, and teachers. Much of the deaf community sees this as an issue, since many hearing people do not properly understand deaf culture and deaf values. These values would finally come to light in March 1988, when Gallaudet University’s Board of Trustees set out to pick their new university president. There were three candidates for university president, two of them were deaf and one was hearing. The board ended up picking the only hearing candidate, a woman named Elizabeth Zinser. All the deaf students, staff, and faculty were outraged! They couldn’t have a hearing president any longer. They needed a deaf president, now!

Deaf President Now!

As soon as the news that Elizabeth Zinser, a hearing person, had been selected as president, all of the students, staff, and faculty at Gallaudet University began to protest. They protested from March 6th, 1988 to March 18th, 1988, and were lead by several student leaders; Bridgetta Bourne, Jerry Covell, Greg Hlibok, and Tim Rarus.

Through their leadership, all the students, staff, and faculty organized. They barricaded all entrances to the school and made their demands known. They made a list of four demands that Gallaudet’s Board of Trustees must abide by in order for them to stop protesting. They demanded that:

  1. Zinser must resign from president and a deaf candidate must be selected.
  2. Jane Spilman, a member on the Board of Trustees and a hearing person, must resign.
  3. The Board of Trustee’s must contain at least 51% deaf members.
  4. No punishment or reprisal will be given to any Deaf President Now protesters.

The protests became so big that it had made national news! Protesters had completely overrun campus, and they used their cars as well as buses to block off Gallaudet University to ensure no one could get in or out. The protestors also marched through Washington, D.C. to make their message known, they wanted a deaf president now!

The Aftermath

Finally, after days of protest, Elizabeth Zinser resigned and was replaced by I. King Jordan, a deaf person. All other demands made by the Deaf President Now protesters were met as well.

The deaf community celebrated, this had been a major achievement for them! For decades, the deaf community had been controlled by hearing people and now, finally, deaf people could advocate and speak for themselves. Deaf President Now brought deaf people from all over the United States together in a single unified, organized cause which made the deaf community stronger than ever!

American Sign Language sign for "I love you" on cool gray background-Kids Activities Blog.
“I Love You” in American Sign Language!

In addition to strengthening the deaf community, Deaf President Now allowed for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to be passed by congress. Through Deaf President Now, the American Association of the Deaf (AAD) and the ADA ensured that deaf people and other Americans with disabilities would receive the same rights as able bodied Americans.

The Deaf President Now movement really showed how capable and powerful deaf are people are, which was unheard of before!

Want to learn more about Deaf President Now? Check out the cool and informative video below! They have so many fun facts and interesting tid-bits!

Deaf President Now Educational Video

Watch this informative video about Deaf President Now!

Here’s a simple yet informative and educational video about the Deaf President Now movement from The Stews Youtube channel.

My inspiration and sources

Over the past academic year, I have been taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes at my university. In the fall and spring I took ASL I and ASL II with Professor Joanna Nunnelly, and over this past summer I took ASL III and ASL IV with Professor Erika Trammell-Conerly. Over the course of both classes I learned a lot about sign language and about deaf culture. One of the key cultural touch stones we covered in all four classes was the Deaf President Now movement.

What I had learned from those lesson plans inspired me to make this article! I thought that it would be an interesting movement for kids to learn about while also getting a sneak peak into fundamental aspects of deaf culture and history. The video I had selected for this article was one shown by Professor Trammell-Conerly and what had inspired me to make this article. The experiences of Professor Nunnelly, who had attended Deaf President Now, also had inspired me to make this article since she had shared her experiences with my class during the Spring Semester.

I hope that reading about Deaf President now has enlightened you to an interesting aspect of deaf history and has even sparking an ongoing interest in deaf culture and American Sign Language. If you’re considering learning the language or teaching it to your kids, I would highly recommend! ASL is a truly interesting and fun language that I think everyone should learn!

Four children in a classroom learning the American sign language sign for afraid from a teacher who sits on the left side of the classroom-Kids Activities blog.
Look at these kids learning the sign “afraid!”

More history fun and ACTIVITIES for kids From Kids ACtivities Blog

What did you learn about Deaf President Now? Let us know in the comments!



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