African Americans and the disABILITY Experience:
A Project of the Museum of disABILITY History and the
HBCU Disability Consortium
- Audre Lorde
(1934-1992) Award winning poet, writer and civil rights activist. Lorde, a self-described “black Lesbian feminist warrior poet mother” spoke out against racism and homophobia. After a 1978 mastectomy as a result of breast cancer she did not wear a prosthesis, choosing to love her body as it was.
- Bonnie St. John
(b1964) Bonnie had her right leg amputated at age five. She would go on to be the first African-American to medal at the 1984 Paralympics. She is also a writer, Harvard Graduate, Rhodes Scholar, business owner, and, NBC Nightly News called Bonnie, "One of the five most inspiring women in America."
- Christopher Bell
(1974-2009) Bell, a professor at Towson and Syracuse Universities and past president of the Society for Disability Studies. His scholarly studies examined race, disability, AIDS, illness, class and sexuality.
- Greg Smith
(b1964) Smith’s love of broadcasting took him from high school play-by-play man to host of his syndicated radio program “On A Roll”, a documentary, and his book would follow. He is now “The Strength Coach.” to catch up with Greg follow the link:
- Henrietta Lacks
(1920-1951) While being treated for cervical cancer, Lacks had cells removed from her tumor, without her knowledge, that would become the HeLa immortal cell line. Her cells were used by Jonas Salk in development of a vaccine for polio.
- Joe Capers
( -2002) “Blind Joe” Capers was a musician and producer at his J Jam studio in Oakland, which was fully accessible. Joe helped to develop and produce a number of 80s and 90s Hip-Hop stars.
- Junius Wilson
(1908-2001) Wilson was a deaf man who was held in a North Carolina mental institution for over 70 years as the result of an unproven crime. He is the subject of Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner’s 2007 book.
- Leroy F. Moore Jr.
Born in Buffalo in 1967 Leroy F. Moore is the founder of “Krip-Hop Nation.” For more information on Leroy, please follow the link:
- Millie-Christine McKoy
(1851-1912)born into slavery and connected at the lower spine, Millie-Christine were sold as a curiosity and put on exhibit. They were once known as the “Two-headed Nightingale” and were very popular in Europe. It is estimated that they earned more than a quarter-million dollars over the course of their career.
- Ray Charles
(1930-2004) Soul Music pioneer Ray Charles (AKA “The Genius”) showed an interest in music at an early age. He was blind by age 7, losing his sight to glaucoma. His early piano training was in classical music, however, it was his fusion of rhythm and blues, gospel, blues, and later country music styles that would propel his career, and influence many other artists. Charles was active in protesting segregation, and his foundation benefits a variety of disability and educational programs.
- Stevie Wonder
(B1950) Born prematurely Stevie was placed in an incubator receiving oxygen which saved his life, but left him blind. He was musically inclined from an early age, and became a harmonica prodigy .Motown Records signed him at age 11. Stevie has won 22 Grammys and the Gershwin Prize for Pop Music. Wonder has also been honored for his activism by the National Civil Rights Museum.