“Dreaming of a Deaf Utopia” for WNYC

When Marvin Miller was growing up in small town Michigan, it never occurred to him that his family was the only deaf family in town. If new neighbors moved in, he wondered what was wrong with them if they didn’t know sign language. It was only as he got older did he realize that his situation was the exceptional one.

That’s when he started to dream of starting an all sign language town; a town where everyone from the mayor to the garbage collector would know how to sign, and being deaf would be the norm.

When he was in his early 30s, he started to realize his dream by optioning 380 acres of farmland in McCook County, South Dakota to establish Laurent, a town named after Laurent Clerc, a 19th century deaf educator.

Not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Some locals were concerned about having a community that spoke a foreign language so close by. But ultimately, the idea of Laurent was embraced.

So what happened?