Rev. Grose preaching to a partially integrated congregation.

Though both churches shared a ministry, and eventually a building, the Whatcoat Mission and Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf operated separately for fifty years. The Whatcoat Mission was founded in 1905 by Rev. Daniel E. Moylan in Baltimore, Maryland and is believed to be the oldest African American deaf church in the United States. Christ United Methodist Church for the Deaf was founded ten years earlier, in 1895, by Rev. Moylan for white deaf men and women in the same city.1 Given the context of American race relations throughout this period, it is perhaps unsurprising that white and black deaf people did not share in the same social networks. However the subject of segregation within the deaf community has yet to receive adequate treatment and the ways in which deaf persons of both races negotiated the challenges posed by early twentieth century social pressures remains an underexplored area of US deaf history.

Despite the fact that they resided in the same city, it would appear that interaction between these groups was relatively limited as they formed separate clubs and societies. As a result there were few circumstances in which white and deaf people would meet and interact. The unique experiences of the black deaf men and women who attended these churches would be influenced a great deal by the structure of deaf education. The social networks formed at residential deaf schools fostered the exchange of information, aided in finding marriage partners, and provided linguistic and cultural support for deaf students.

This project is located within a larger effort to examine and locate the lives of deaf people within the American historical record. The field of Deaf History has identified a number of key features in the trajectory of deaf lives. These include deaf education and deaf social organizations. Each had a profound impact on the social, cultural and linguistic identities of deaf people. Despite a divided social history, in 1955 the Whatcoat Mission merged with Christ Methodist as a united congregation. The process of this integration has yet to be fully explored and this site seeks to document that history. Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, Deaf History scholars, describe “The history of separate schools [as] one of lost histories.”2 Similarly, the history of social institutions, like the Whatcoat Mission and Christ United Methodist Church for the Deaf have largely existed on the edges of existing histories and this site serves to collect and document the process of integration.


Header Photo by Roland Murray, (undated photo, likely between 1970-1974) red binder, Christ United Methodist Church for the Deaf Archives.

1. Charles Waters interview in The Best Is Yet to Come; The History of the Whatcoat Mission for the Colored Deaf, VHS (Christ United Methodist Church for the Deaf, 1995).

2. Padden and Humphries, Inside Deaf Culture, 41.