You bet! Did you know that Black American Sign Language (or Black ASL) is a variation or dialect of the American Sign Language? If spoken language can have many dialects, accents, and variations, why not sign language? The language was developed for Black Americans when segregation denied them education in the established sign language schools and classes (it wasn’t until 1952 that black students were even admitted into the American School for the Deaf). Undeterred by segregation, pioneer Platt Skinner recognized these educational needs and founded a school for Black deaf Americans in Niagara Falls, New York in 1856. Today, Black ASL exists with different syntax, vocabulary, and the signs are often made farther away from the body. They also tend to use two hands more often than one hand.
In February, TikTok star Nakia Smith taught her viewers about Black ASL and its history, and shared the pride behind this dialect and vocabulary. Smith comes from a family with four generations of deaf people, and she wanted to share why Black ASL stands apart.