Black History Month — Celebrating Famous Deaf People

By Sara Baines-Miller | Posted on: February 1, 2024

Black History Month

During Black History Month, it is imperative to celebrate the remarkable contributions of deaf individuals within the black community, whose stories and achievements often resonate beyond their deafness. They have defied societal barriers, proving that excellence knows no bounds. From the indomitable spirit of Curtis Pride, a deaf baseball player who made significant strides in the sport, to the inspiring presence of Claudia Gordon, the first deaf African American female attorney to be admitted to the bar, their journeys exemplify resilience and determination.

By acknowledging and celebrating these accomplished individuals, we honor their personal triumphs and contribute to a more inclusive narrative that recognizes the multifaceted talents and achievements within the intersectionality of race and deafness.

This Black History Month, let us amplify the voices and stories of these deaf trailblazers, recognizing their place in the rich tapestry of American history.

Black History Month

Famous Black People with Hearing Loss

Did you know these celebrities are deaf or hard of hearing? Not only did they find success in their field, but they also used their status to celebrate and support systems and organizations for hearing loss.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg, an Academy Award-winning actress, comedian, activist, writer, and moderator on “The View,” attributes her hearing loss to prolonged exposure to loud music, as reported by various sources. Known for her roles in “Sister Act” and “Ghost,” Goldberg, who actively supports the Starkey Hearing Foundation, emphasizes the importance of hearing health. She wears hearing aids and encourages others to prioritize their auditory well-being.

Derrick Coleman

Derrick Coleman, the inaugural legally deaf offensive player in the NFL and former fullback, has confronted challenges since losing his hearing at the age of 3. Despite this adversity, he succeeded in the NFL and secured a Super Bowl victory with the Seahawks in 2014. Coleman also established the nonprofit Derrick L. Coleman Jr. No Excuse Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting children, teenagers, and adults with hearing loss who require assistance.

Connie Briscoe

Briscoe is a bestselling author featured on The New York Times list and uses a cochlear implant to help with the hearing impairment she was born with. The author of Money Can’t Buy Love and Big Girls Don’t Cry, has sold over 600,000 hardcover and paperback copies of her debut novel, Sisters and Lovers, according to her online biography. Briscoe attributes facing hearing loss as a catalyst for becoming “stronger, more resilient, and more determined to reach [her] goals.”

Tamika Catchings

The celebrated Indiana Fever basketball star, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, and retired WNBA great faced the challenge of being born with a hearing impairment. She channeled this difficult experience into her competitive spirit. During her time in the WNBA, she leveraged her celebrity status to openly discuss her experience with hearing impairment.

Black History Month

Claudia Gordon

Acknowledged as a prominent advisor on disability matters during former President Barack Obama’s administration, Claudia Gordon stands as the first Deaf African American female lawyer to graduate from law school and dedicate her career to advocating for individuals with disabilities. She actively works to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities, contributing to the ongoing pursuit of respect and equality.

Curtis Pride

Curtis Pride never viewed his deafness as a handicap; instead, he saw it as an advantage over other athletes. Retiring in 2008 after playing for six MLB teams, Pride took on a coaching role at Gallaudet University for the 2009 season, a college dedicated to deaf and hard of hearing students in Washington, DC.

Haben Girma

Haben Girma, an advocate for disability rights, was born in California to Eritrean parents and experienced the loss of both her hearing and sight at a young age. Benefiting from advancements in American disability rights, Girma had access to specific devices that her older sibling, who is also deafblind, did not have when their family resided in Eritrea. Girma achieved the historic milestone of becoming the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law, and she has since made significant contributions to the empowerment of individuals with disabilities. Girma remains a driving force for positive change in the world.


R&B singer Tank is sharing his hearing loss experience to support and guide others who might encounter similar challenges. Following his disclosure, he curated the 17-track R&B Money, which was released in August 2022. The vocalist expressed intentions to chronicle the events, aiming to assist others by sharing his experiences.

Jenelle Rouse

Dr. Jenelle Rouse, a Canadian educator, applied linguistics researcher, consultant, and accomplished professional dancer, incorporates her personal experience with deafness into her multifaceted work. As a highly sought-after speaker, she not only champions increased empowerment for deaf individuals but also leads a team dedicated to exploring the absence of documented information regarding the lives of Black Deaf Canadians.

Recognizing and Commemorating

In recognizing and commemorating these remarkable individuals, we pay homage to their individual victories and embrace the diverse talents and accomplishments at the intersection of race and deafness. As Black History Month unfolds, let us elevate the voices and stories of these pioneering deaf individuals.

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At DePaul School for Hearing and Speech, we celebrate uniqueness, individuality, differences, and accomplishments.

If you have any questions about DePaul or our programs, please reach out to us. We look forward to speaking with you!

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