By: Nava Levine (08/10/2016)
Andrew Foster was born in 1925 in Ensley, Alabama. At the young age of 11, Foster contracted spinal meningitis and became deaf as a result. He was rejected from Gallaudet University multiple times merely because he was African American. However, Foster would not be dissuaded; he continued to apply until at last he was accepted and granted a full scholarship. Foster earned his degree in education there before heading to Eastern Michigan University for a master’s in education and then Seattle Pacific College for a second master’s, this time in Christian Mission.
In 1956, Foster combined his passions and established his first school, the Christian Mission for Deaf Africans in Michigan. He then began his travels, fundraising and speaking all over the world. When Foster arrived in Africa in 1957, there were only 12 deaf schools in the continent. He started the first deaf school to ever exist in West Africa. The process was difficult, starting out in a classroom in a Presbyterian Church until they were able to afford the land for a proper building. Foster served as head of school for a few years before moving on to establish both Nigeria and Liberia’s first deaf schools. In 1960 he served on the Ghana Government Cabinet Committee, and was able to use this position to start eight more deaf schools in the area.
Throughout his life, Foster established a total of 32 deaf schools in 13 African Nations. He was encouraged by the headmaster of Gallaudet University and inspired my a Jamaican missionary from his youth. Foster was faced with challenge after challenge and had to overcome adversity just to graduate high school. I chose to write about Andrew Foster because I find it inspiring that he not only faced each challenge head on, but then went on to give to others once he found success. He spent his life creating deaf schools and providing hundreds with education. This incredible determination and kindness is what makes Andrew Foster my favorite character in Deaf history.