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Andrew Foster was born on this date in 1925. He was an African-American educator and administrator for the deaf.
Born in Ensley, Alabama, Foster lost his hearing at age 11 after suffering from spinal meningitis. Drawn to a career in education, he attended the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf in Talladega. In 1954, he was the first African American to graduate from Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., and the first to earn a master's degree from Eastern Michigan University. Foster then earned another master's from Seattle Pacific Christian College.
In 1957, he went to Africa, where he encountered cultures so oppressive of deaf people that parents often hid their deaf children at home or abandoned them altogether. Hearing missionaries told Foster that deaf children didn't even exist in Africa. But he found deaf children and established 31 schools for them. Before he finished, he had established schools in Benin, Congo, Chad, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Cameroon.
For much of his life he spent six months of the year in Africa establishing schools and the other six months in the United State raising money to support them. In 1970 Gallaudet granted him an honorary doctor of humane letter in recognition of his accomplishment.
Foster, a deeply religious man, taught sign language to many Africans so they could fulfill his favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 29:18: "In that day, the deaf will hear the words of the book." Dedicated and tireless, Andrew Foster's life was cut short in a plane crash in 1987 while carrying on his pioneering work. This incident meant the Black Deaf community lost an extraordinary leader.
Reference: Andrew Foster Jr. (son)
Darrick F. Nicholas
Media Relations Coordinator