6 renowned black women in history who made a big impact despite their disabilities

Theodora Aidoo September 29, 2019
Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 29, 2019
6 renowned black women in history who made a big impact despite their disabilities

Johnnie Lacy

Johnnie Lacy fought for the rights of people with disabilities, especially people of colour. She led Community Resources for Independent Living, a nonprofit in Hayward providing services and advocacy.

Lacy spoke of being excluded from the Black community due to her disability and from the disability community due to being a person of colour but that did not stop her.

According to the Regional Oral History Office, she had her childhood in Arkansas, Louisiana, and McCloud, California. She contracted polio in 1956 and went for rehab at Fairmount Hospital, San Leandro.

In a 1998 interview for UC Berkeley’s oral history archive, Lacy recalls the San Francisco State University professor who successfully organized a movement to stop her from studying in his department because he saw no place in his profession for wheelchair-users: “. . . my final and departing shot to him was that if I were just a woman, he could not do this to me; if I were only a person of color, he would not be able to do this to me;” the only way that you are able to take this unfair advantage is because I have a disability.”

“I also discovered . . . that many African-Americans consider being black as having a disability, and so they didn’t really identify with disability as a disability but just as one other kind of inequity that black people had to deal with.”

Lacy joined the 504 demonstration in San Francisco in 1977. As a black woman in a wheelchair, she educated her communities about race and disability and served as a role model for many other black disabled women.


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