Clerc Classic XXII


About the Clerc Classic's Namesake: Laurent Clerc

Laurent Clerc (born Louis Laurent Marie Clerc) was born on December 26, 1785 in La Balme les
Grottes, France, a village on the northeastern edge of Lyon. Clerc has been called “The Apostle of
the Deaf in America” and “The Father of the Deaf” by generations of American deaf people. With
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, he co-founded the rst school for the deaf in North America, the
Hartford Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb on April 15, 1817 in the
old Bennet’s City Hotel, Hartford, Connecticut. The school was subsequently re-named The
American School for the Deaf and in 1821 moved to its present site. The school remains the oldest
existing school for the deaf in the United States. Clerc was the rst great proponent of sign language instruction over oral instruction in this country, an advocate for fundamental rights for the deaf people, such as the right to marry, and the inspiration for the spread of deaf education throughout the United States. Clerc’s knowledge of deaf people’s natural inclination to use sign language formed the basis of his view of deafness as a minority culture and not unlike language-minority groups that exist in the midst of majority cultures throughout the world. He held this minority culture view of deaf people, deafness and sign language more than a hundred years before the first comprehensive studies of the sign language of the deaf revealed it to be a natural language equivalent to English and all other spoken languages. After moving to the United States, Clerc returned to visit France three more times. He assisted in 1864 with the opening of what would later be named Gallaudet University. Clerc died in 1869 and is buried in Hartford.