Andrew J. Foster

Missionary educator

Andrew Jackson Foster was deafened by spinal meningitis at age 11, and attended the Alabama School for Colored Deaf in Talladega. When his family moved to Detroit in 1942, he worked in a military-equipment factory, studying at night. A missionary’s public lecture about deaf Jamaicans inspired him to choose an evangelical career. With the encouragement of Eric Malzkuhn, he became Gallaudet College’s first black student, receiving his B.A. in Education in 1954. In 1956, he organized the Christian Mission for Deaf Africans, and set up his first school in Accra, Ghana. He founded 31 schools for deaf African children and adults. By 1974, there were 74 schools for the deaf in Africa, a sixfold increase over the 12 that existed before he began his mission. In 1970, he became the first black person to receive an honorary degree from Gallaudet. His career ended when he died in a plane crash in Rwanda—but his mission continues.

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