Date of Award

January 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Research

First Advisor

Marcus Weaver-Hightower


Dr. Andrew Foster (1925-1987) was a Deaf African American missionary educator known to have established among the first 32 schools for the d/Deaf across 13 African nations. Foster tragically died in the 1987 Rwanda airplane accident. Deaf communities in Africa and the United States, soon after, lionized him as the “father of d/Deaf education in Africa”. Chroniclers of history largely ignored Foster and treated as invisible his contributions to d/Deaf education.

I had been waiting, like many, for researchers to give an in depth, historical treatment to Foster’s work. I felt knowledge from such a study would support me to learn from, teach others about, and apply his best practice to serve marginalized communities. I decided to research and write it myself, after waiting more than two decades for this scholarly study.

This is an ethnohistory to explore Foster’s life, work and legacy. My study was grounded by five questions: 1) Who was he?; 2) What were his goals?; 3) How did he accomplish his goals?; 4) What is his legacy?; and 5) What can be learned, taught and applied from his work? I examined media about Foster, gathered archival and oral histories, and observed activities at communities where he trialed his work. I thematically combined and analyzed this information to write this ethnohistory.

My key findings revealed that Foster responded to a Christian calling and curiosity about his ancestral roots that inspired him to serve the d/Deaf in Africa. Foster successfully constructed a faith based-service delivery schema to reach tens of thousands of d/Deaf Africans overlooked by government and hearing missionaries.

Foster laid the groundwork to launch the Ghana Mission School for the Deaf (his prototype) during his Ghana years (1957 - 1965). He allied with Ghanaians to: 1) mobilize resources, 2) pilot communication modalities and teaching pedagogies, 3) train and empower d/Deaf African mentees, and 4) transfer his prototype to d/Deaf West African mentees who would scale it across Africa. The last two components are the greatest educational legacies of Foster’s work, building d/Deaf Africans’ capacity to run their d/Deaf mission school system.