We recognize African American contributions to the disability rights movement during this Black History Month. Let’s celebrate African American contributions to the disability rights movement as well as African American trailblazers who have made their mark on American history.
We remember the legacies of American Black History Month
Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist who helped runaway slaves escape via the Underground Railroad. Though it is not well known, Harriet Tubman suffered from epilepsy due to a severe head injury that she sustained while enslaved. As a result, she needed to take many rest breaks on her rescue missions. But she persevered and helped more than 300 people make their way to freedom! This Black History Month, we recognize Harriet Tubman for her remarkable accomplishments as a former enslaved woman living with a disability and her contributions to American history.
Mary Kenner always loved inventing solutions to problems. Her inventions made daily life easier. When her sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she patented innovative accessibility inventions such as a serving tray, pocket attachment for a walker, toilet paper holder and a back washer that could attach to a shower wall. As an African American inventor, it was difficult to get her patents approved. But that didn’t stop her. Mary Kenner filed a total of five patents to the US government but never became rich or received any formal recognition because of racism.
Johnnie Lacy was a disability rights activist. At 19, she was diagnosed with polio and became paralyzed. She fought for disability rights within the Black community as she overcame racism in her own daily life. She raised awareness of the impacts of race and living with disabilities and played an influential role in the independent living movement. Johnnie Lacy was a champion for disability rights. We will always remember her powerful voice as a trailblazing champion for disability rights and a powerful voice for Black people living with disabilities.
Haben Girma is the first Black person who is both blind and deaf to graduate from Harvard Law School. And that’s not all! Haben Girma was named a White House Champion of Change, received the Hellen Keller Achievement Award and was featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. She believes that disabilities are opportunities for innovation. She has been an outspoken advocate for disability rights and has encouraged organizations across the nation to think more inclusively. With Haben Girma’s perspective and mindset, anything is possible. Inclusion is a choice!
Erin Jackson is the first African American woman to win an Olympic speed skating medal. Erin Jackson started her career as an inline skater and made the switch to ice speed skating in 2018. After just four months of skating on ice, she made history as the first African American woman to make the U.S. Long-Track Speed Skating team. During the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, she made history again. She took home the gold in the women’s 500m, becoming the first African American woman to win an individual Olympic speed skating medal. Erin Jackson is an inspiration to all American athletes with her amazing accomplishments. We are so excited to see what she does next!
About Easterseals UCP
Easterseals UCP North Carolina & Virginia is a trustworthy, compassionate partner providing exceptional disability and behavioral health services to help our neighbors live their best lives. Purpose, dedication and empathy drive our service delivery. Our diverse and inclusive 2,300 member team provides more than 9 million hours of meaningful support to 22,000 kids, adults and families in 11,000 home and community locations.