The Vineyard Signing Community and Its Place in American History

The Vineyard Signing Community and Its Place in American History with Richard Meier and Justin Power

Join Richard Meier and Justin Power as they place the Deaf and signing community of Martha’s Vineyard into the broader historical context. Although prior work has often portrayed the Martha’s Vineyard signing community as a remote, outlying community, Meier and Power will explore how the history of the Vineyard signing community is interwoven with American history more broadly.

Prominent figures from colonial American and U.S. history make appearances in the history of the Island’s Deaf population. Judge Samuel Sewall, of Salem witch trials infamy, met one of the Island’s first Deaf residents; John Adams, the second American president, met another; Alexander Graham Bell’s fascination with the Island’s Deaf population led him to visit the Vineyard in the late 19th century; and Thomas Hart Benton, created two well-known paintings of Deaf Islanders.

Richard P. Meier is a professor of linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. He has long worked on the linguistics of signed languages and on their acquisition as first languages by Deaf children.

Justin Power is a postdoctoral fellow in linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. His research on signing communities and their signed languages has taken him to far-flung places like Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and, now, Martha’s Vineyard. Together with Richard Meier, he has conducted extensive archival research on the nineteenth century New England signing community. 

ASL interpretation will be available.

Preregistration encouraged.

MVM Members: $15; Non-Members: $20.

Please note: this program may be recorded for broadcast.


Date September 29, 2023
From 5:30 pm
To 6:30 pm
Type Talk
Venue Martha’s Vineyard Museum
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