RIT/NTID professor emeritus shares insight into contributions of deaf Americans during the Civil War

Harry Lang will host book talk and signing on campus Sept. 6

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Harry Lang

Harry Lang has had a long and storied career researching and writing about deaf Americans throughout history. His latest book, Fighting in the Shadows: The Untold Story of Deaf People in the Civil War, provides insight into this little-known aspect of the country’s history.

Lang, who taught at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf for nearly 41 years, will host a discussion and book signing from 12:20 to 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6, in RIT/NTID’s CSD Student Development Center, room 1300/1310. Lang’s discussion, part of the college’s ASL Lecture Series, is free. Sign-language interpreters have been requested.

Fighting in the Shadows: The Untold Story of Deaf People in the Civil War, which sells for $39.95 and includes 160 photos, provides insight into the deaf and hard-of-hearing people who were extensively involved in the American Civil War and reportedly is one of the first books to document their participation. Supporting both sides of the conflict, they participated as soldiers, writers, doctors, nurses, spies and assumed a variety of other roles.

“My plan for the RIT/NTID ASL Lecture Series presentation is to focus on deaf history/deaf heritage as they relate to the Civil War,” Lang said. “I will have numerous stories, with an emphasis on sign language, about graduates of schools for the deaf like Laura Redden, Edmund Booth and many others and how they put aside the oppression and discrimination they faced in order to join the greater conflict that was dividing the nation.”

Lang has published 10 books and numerous book chapters and articles. He was the senior history adviser on the production team of the award-winning documentary Through Deaf Eyes, which aired on PBS stations in 2007.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, Writers and Books will sponsor a lecture and book signing at Rochester Academy of Medicine auditorium, 1441 East Ave., Rochester. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow. The event is $5 and tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 585-473-2590 ext. 107 or online at wab.org. This event will be sign language interpreted. This presentation will have a stronger emphasis on community aspects, such as deaf people being involved in both the nascent deaf community at that time and their involvement in the hearing communities in support of the Union and Confederate armies.

“I’ll also talk a bit about the tens of thousands of hearing soldiers who were deafened in the war and what they experienced during the years following the war,” Lang added.