Deaf Pilots, Baseball Players, Poets, Artists, and Lawyers: Portraits of Deaf Heroes and Heroines for Children and Everyone Else

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A new children's book, published by Surdists United, illustrates the incredible accomplishments and lives of Deaf Americans providing lessons to all about the power of resilience.

Publishers have recently harnessed the power of beautifully illustrated children’s books highlighting the accomplishments of women, African Americans, and others underrepresented in our history books. To contribute to this popular genre, Surdists United, Inc., a non-profit arts organization, announces the publication of ABC Portraits of Deaf Ancestors.

Produced following a successful Kickstarter campaign, this book spotlights the lives and achievements of historical Deaf and DeafBlind people from a variety of cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds. Presented in short, simple language, the biographical entries contain archival information uncovered from a number of Deaf school archives and historical Deaf news publications. Each concise bio, which was researched and written by Karen Christie, is visually brought to life with painted portraits by internationally recognized Deaf artist Nancy Rourke. Rourke has pioneered a style of Deaf art coined Rourkeism which is characterized by the use of bold primary colors.

Deaf individuals featured include: Nellie Zabel, the first woman pilot from South Dakota, whose beloved airplane appears in her portrait; , Roger O’Kelly, an African American DeafBlind lawyer, who graduated from Yale University in 1912, is portrayed with his distinctive signature; Monroe Ingram, an African American baseball pitcher and educator, is shown wearing his team uniform; John Clarke’s portrait shows him in his Blackfeet headdress brushing off a small bear carving, one of his many notable artworks, and Laura Redden, a poet and journalist who interviewed President Lincoln and General Grant via pen and paper, appears as she did in her author photo. ABC Portraits of Deaf Ancestors was created for middle school students, their families as well as students of Deaf history and culture. The book’s Deaf writer, Karen Christie, states that these portraits result in compelling lessons about resilience that all readers can appreciate.

Surdists United is a nonprofit 501c3 entity and a collective movement of visual artists, filmmakers, poets, storytellers, writers, & performers committed to creating art about Deaf experiences and social justice through ARTivism. The organization actively trains art teachers across the country in how to teach about Deaf View/Image Art (De’VIA), provides workshops in schools, communities, and prisons, generates and promotes De’VIA exhibits, and engages in ARTivism to advance social justice.

For more information: surdistunited(at)

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Nancy Rourke, Patti Durr, Laurie Monahan & Karen Christie

K Christie