As Black History Month winds down, it remains important to celebrate the accomplishments of Black people with disabilities. This community has often been excluded from traditional celebrations of Black History Month and have had fewer opportunities for economic growth than their white counterparts. Look back and celebrate the achievements of these Black people with disabilities!
Here are four Black people with disabilities to learn about as we conclude Black History Month:
- Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks was a 20th century Black woman whose cervical cancer cells are the source of the incredibly influential HeLa cell, an incredibly important cell line that has led to scientific breakthroughs and medical research. Henrietta’s cells were unwittingly taken from her during a biopsied tumor, with no knowledge from her family. Today, Johns Hopkins University has named a building in her honor.
- Maya Angelou. Author, activist, and poet, Maya Angelou’s 50-year career centered around Black culture, identity, and womanhood. She also had an anxiety disorder called selective mutism as a child and did not speak for five years. Maya Angelou has received over 50 honorary degrees and dozens of accolades for her strong legacy.
- Brad Lomax. Brad Lomax was a wheelchair user and member of the Black Panther Party. His initiative to build relationships between disability leaders and Black Panther leaders was key to the success of the Section 504 sit-in protest in 1977. In addition, Brad helped create the East Oakland Center for Independent Living, recognizing the Black disability community in East Oakland, California needed support systems.
- Eliza Gertrude Suggs. Eliza Gertrude Suggs was a 19th century author and public speaker with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), born to formerly enslaved parents. With the help of her mother and attendant, who both assisted Eliza up a flight of stairs at the local school, Eliza was able to have access to education from an early age and loved reading. She later went on to become an advocate for temperance and published a memoir of her life, “Shadows and Sunshine.”
How will you support today’s Black entrepreneurs with disabilities this year?