Celebrating Black History Month and the Unsung Heroes Of The Disability Rights Movement

The month of February is dedicated to honoring the long history of Black Americans and their many contributions to society. This month, we wanted to highlight the stories of Black heroes whose vision, commitment and activism helped advance progress for people with disabilities. As we reflect on the past, we remember the incredible advocates who are too often left out of the retelling of history.

ID: There are 5 graphics, each colored black, green, yellow, and red with the following text about each unsung hero of Black History Month:

Johnnie Lacy: A Voice for Black Women with Disabilities
Johnnie Lacy helped found the Center for Independent Living at Berkeley and became the Director of the Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL) in its early days from 1981 to 1994. During her time at CRIL, she engaged the community in groundbreaking and essential conversations about identity and the challenges that come with being a Black woman with a disability.

Brad Lomax & Chuck Jackson: Uniting the Civil Rights Community
The “504 Sit In” has been widely written about, but the involvement of two Black disability activists, Brad Lomax and Chuck Jackson, has been largely overlooked. These two members of the Black Panther Party, Brad Lomax, and his assistant, Chuck Jackson, participated in the sit in. Lomax was an Oakland resident with multiple sclerosis which required him to use a wheelchair. Together, Lomax and Jackson worked with their community to cook and deliver hot meals to disability rights advocates during the 28-day protest.

Bessie Blount: Transforming what is Possible through Assistive Technology
Blount believed that it was important for people with disabilities to be able to feed themselves in order to have independence and increase their self-esteem. To do this, Blount came up with a device that consisted of a tube that transported individual bites of food to the patient’s mouth. Blount’s innovation was one of the earliest forms of assistive technology for individuals with disabilities and she paved the way for many more advancements in the field.

These Black advocates, inventors, and activists — Johnnie Lacy, Brad Lomax, Chuck Jackson, and Bessie Blount — each contributed something unique to the disability movement and have helped our communities get to where we are today. It’s hard to imagine a world without their significant contributions.