How segregated schools led Black Deaf students to develop their own form of American Sign Language | Insider

On Super Bowl Sunday, more than one winner walked away from the anticipated match-up. 

Within the Fenty frenzy, social media could not stop raving about Justina Miles, the energetic sign language interpreter featured during Rihanna’s halftime performance and Sheryl Lee Ralph’s rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Celebrated as the first Black Deaf woman to perform at the Superbowl, Miles’ interpretation amplifies the work of translating music into American Sign Language. Tweets immediately poured in by the hundreds in support of the 20-year-old nursing student and Deaflympic track silver medalist.

“I value the opportunity to make it possible for all Deaf people to enjoy these songs, and not have them miss out on the full Super Bowl experience,” Miles told CNBC.

Sign language interpreters often go viral for their interpretations of music. Holly Maniatty, another famed sign language interpreter, has also gone viral in recent years, rapping alongside the likes of Waka Flocka Flame, Eminem, and Wu-Tang Clan at music festivals. 

Maniatty talked to Longreads in 2017 about how ASL is “so deeply tied with American cultural experience.” 

The history of American Sign Language, however, cannot be told without also speaking about segregated education systems, and the emergence of Black American Sign Language.

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