Andrew Foster

Andrew Foster

Andrew Foster

Andrew Foster is a very important person in Deaf history. He was the first African American Deaf person to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from Gallaudet University and is known as the “Father of the Deaf” of Africa because he founded the first school for the deaf there and went on to establish 31 more.

Andrew Foster Articles by Students

Andrew Foster

by Nava Levine | August 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.

Andrew Foster

by Eric Hines Jr. | December 15, 2016

After completing my Bachelor’s degree in Educational Psychology, I plan working as a diverse learner for students in the elementary level. Some students with hearing loss would be enrolled in my class and it is important for me to communicate with them. I would not want my students to feel ostracized from others. A famous deaf individual that interested me was Dr. Andrew Foster. He was an African American deaf educator that highly influenced his cultural history and deaf history. Dr. Foster build many schools in Africa, helping to benefit deaf students. His major contributions positively impacted many different communities in Africa.

Dr. Andrew Foster made African American history by being the first African American student to graduate from Gallaudet University. This huge accomplishment granted Dr. Foster with recognition throughout the university. He was a member of the National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA) and they funded a statue being built in his honor on the university. Not only was there a statue in his honor, but the Gallaudet named the auditorium after him because of the positive contributions he made. The school also introduced an educational scholarship in his honored called the Andrew Foster Scholarship.

The organization that Dr. Foster found was Christian Mission for the Deaf. The organization was primarily intended for Africans and there is a religious approach because of his beliefs. The objective of this specific organization is to support the spiritual and educational needs of deaf Africans. This is a great opportunity for deaf individuals. Dr. Andrew Foster primary goal was to make deaf people feel at ease and to be an advocate for deaf culture.

Communication From Helen Keller to Andrew Foster

by Linda | November 16, 2017

My early childhood awareness of any sign language began with the first impressions of the beautiful Hawaiian story telling with graceful dance and use of their hands. I also wondered why there was not a universal set of hand signs like Indian tribes used to cross language barriers. Then I learned about Helen Keller and marveled at her story along with Anne Sullivan’s devotion, dedication and perseverance to teach Helen beginning with a manual alphabet.

From the story of Helen I went on to read many stories of individuals who persevered through many kinds of obstacles. They were individuals who did not see themselves as disabled or unable but rather as facing obstacles, and they seemed to understand the difference between what they could not change and what they could. They brought to reality the meaning of the serenity prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I grew up during the 50s and 60s when being Deaf, like being Black, or both, had great obstacles placed by persons who lacked understanding and were governed by their ignorance and/or prejudices. As I read of great people doing what they could in spite of those and other hardships, I also became more aware of the great people who were the advocates, teachers and mentors.

Now I have learned about so many more of these heroes. It is difficult to choose any one person as I can applaud them all. However, because I am to choose one, I will choose Andrew Foster who overcame the prejudices and attitudes toward being both Deaf and Black through those turbulent years. He then went on to teach and mentor others while starting schools in many areas of Africa. Learning about Deaf history while learning ASL has greatly added to my appreciation of the beauty of communication.

Andrew Foster

by Shaun M. | November 20, 2017

There are many who have made great contributions to the development, use and implementation of sign language and made great contributions to Deaf history but when I was searching for a person to write about, this man certainly stood out in my mind. That man would be Andrew Foster.

Andrew was born hearing and he and his brother were deafened as a result of contracting Spinal Meningitis at the age of 11 (1). This alone would have limited his educational possibilities in 1936, but add that he was of black heritage and that contributed to his struggle even more. Apparently he was not one to give up on a dream of being educated, His family made a move from Alabama to Michigan to live with an aunt (1). He finished his education through a deaf school (2) and a correspondence school (1) and then pursued college. It took some concerted effort to be able to enroll at Gallaudet College, but again he persevered and became the first black man to receive his bachelor’s degree from them. He then pursued his Master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. Once again being the first black man to accomplish this. He pursued a second master’s degree from (what is now) Seattle Pacific University (1). All of these are huge accomplishments.

His interest was not in education alone, but also in the “whole person” . He gave his life to Christ in Michigan and was first exposed to mission work by a Jamaican missionary (3). He established a Christian Mission for Deaf Africans in 1956 (1). But seeing the oppression of the deaf children, sometimes hidden or pushed out to fend for themselves he dreamed of a school for the children (3). In Accra Ghana in 1957 he was able to persuade the public school to use their buildings after hours, and thus he started the first school for the deaf in Ghana. As word got out about his school the waiting list quickly grew and he set out to establish more schools in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Togo, Chad and others countries until the number grew to 31 (1). First helping them to become literate he then taught them trade skills and the gospel. He fed the body, mind and soul.

In 1959 he met Berta , a deaf woman from Germany who shared his heart for missions and while living in Africa they had 5 children. In 1975 they moved to America but Andrew traveled frequently, splitting time with the Missions but also with family and raising funds. In 1987 at the age of 62 he was killed in a plane crash in Rwanda with all that were aboard. Thankfully, the mission didn’t die but continues on today. Christian Mission for the Deaf (which it is now called) has it’s headquarters in Aledo, TX. Andrew was awarded honorary degrees as well and lauded as the “Gallaudet of Africa” (3).

In closing I have to wonder how many looked at his young life, and thought what a tragedy it was to be deafened at 11. He may have felt that way himself. But his destiny was not to become an outcast to a society that already scorned him for his color. He like other famous people of history must have realized that that this event was the “providence of God” to steer him in a very different direction and by not giving up, he impacted, and his work continues to impact many, many lives for now and eternity.


  1. Information from Wikipedia/Andrew Foster
  2. Information from Foster
  3. Information from Andrew Foster
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