Black History Month
Wall of Fame
Harriet Tubman is known for her work helping blacks escape from slavery in the South to freedom in the North. As a teen, she was hit in the head with a weight that was thrown at another slave and developed epilepsy, which causes seizures, headaches and visions. Some say she also struggled with narcolepsy. She was so short, only 5 feet tall, she was considered disabled by slave owners. Her small stature made her seem an unlikely catalyst for the building of the Underground Railroad and slaves escaping to freedom.
Dr. Maya Angelou is best known for her incredible poetry and writings. A little known fact about Dr. Angelou is that she had selective mutism. Stemming from a childhood trauma, she refused to utter a word for five full years. It was during her silent years that her love of language and listening grew.
Brad Lomax was A member of the Black Panther Party (BPP). He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair. He helped fund East Oakland Center for Independent Living and started a program to offer peer support and counseling to African Americans with disabilities. He was a leading force behind 504 sit-ins which prompted the government to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which was a huge moment in Disability Rights movement of the 1970's.
Lois Curtis is a black artist and activist with a mental health disability and I/DD. Growing up, she lived in state-run institutions and was repeatedly denied when she asked to live in the community. She sued the state of Georgia and her case went to the Supreme Court. In the now-famous L.C. v. Olmstead decision, the court declared that Curtis and other people with disabilities have the right to live in the community and to be provided assistance to do so. The Court ruled that unnecessary institutionalization is a form of segregation and is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
At the height of her career, rapper Missy Elliott experienced a dramatic and dangerous weight loss; she was diagnosed with Graves' disease, which attacks the thyroid. Forty-six-year-old businesswoman, rapper and Grammy award winner Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott never has had it easy, but continues to educate and advocate from her space in the spotlight!
Whoopi Goldberg is an Academy Award-winning actress, comedian, radio host, and television personality. Whoopi has dyslexia, but during her early years, she didn’t have a diagnosis, only her self-given diagnosis as abnormally slow. Dyslexia makes it extremely difficult for her to read and process scripts but she has become one of the most famous and sought-after actresses in Hollywood. We can all succeed!
Claudia Gordon was an adviser on disability issues to President Obama in the White House Office of Public Engagement. She was the first Black Deaf lawyer in the U.S. and the first deaf student to graduate from American University's law school. She held a seat on the National Council on Disability, Homeland Security (where she worked in emergency preparedness for people with disabilities), and the National Coalition for Disability Rights.
Dr. Nathie Marbury was the first Black deaf woman to enter the National Leadership Training Program for the Deaf at California State University, Northridge and the first Black deaf female teacher at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School for the Deaf in Washington D.C. She shared her passion for American Sign Language and Deaf culture.
Haben Girma advocates for herself and became a lawyer! She became the first Deafblind person to graduate from law school when she earned her degree from Harvard Law School in 2013. She is a civil rights attorney who advocates for disability rights, a public speaker who travels the country changing people’s perceptions of the disability community in the media and has been featured in Forbes “30 Under 30” and on NBC and NPR.
Danny Glover, as an adolescent and a young adult, Glover suffered from epilepsy. Luckily, he has not suffered a seizure since age 35. He attended San Francisco State University (SFSU) in the late 1960s but did not graduate. SFSU later awarded him the Presidential Medal of San Francisco State University for his service to education.
Curtis Pride played baseball all through high school and college and has made quite the name for himself as a professional baseball player. He first signed with the New York Mets and played with the following major league teams: Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos. While playing with the Atlanta Braves, Pride was the first African American with a disability to play in a World Series. He is the first deaf baseball player in almost 50 years. After retiring he was hired as the baseball coach at Gallaudet University and is currently in his 8th season with the Bisons.
Fannie Lou Hamer speeches of the Civil Rights Movement in 1964 at the Credentials Committee of the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. She spoke on national television of the severe beating she endured in 1963 at a Mississippi jailhouse that caused severe kidney damage, a blood clot behind one eye and a permanent limp which revealed the widespread discrimination that was rampant across Mississippi. She had also been previously sterilized without her knowledge after going to the hospital for a minor surgery. Up until her death she fought for worker’s rights, women’s rights and voting rights
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