Smithsonian Must Include Disabled Black History in the African American History Museum!

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Did you know Harriet Tubman, Audre Lorde, Lorraine Hansberry, Sojourner Truth, and Sammy Davis Jr. had disabilities? Living legends like Alice Walker, Simone Biles, Solange Knowles, and Halle Berry have hidden disabilities too. You may not know this because disabled black history is ignored not just by mainstream America, but black America also.

It’s time to start, including disabled black people in both American and African American history. This begins with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). This petition asks the NMAAHC to include a disability history exhibit within the museum. Project ASCEND wants black disabled history makers like Claudia Gordon, Brad Lomax, Haben Girma, Lois Curtis, Cecil Ivory and more to become household names.

Gordon is the first black deaf woman attorney in the United States, and Girma is the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. Brad Lomax was a disabled member of the Black Panther Party that fought better healthcare in black communities.

Curtis is an intellectually disabled black woman that won a landmark civil rights case, which granted disabled Americans the right to live independently within communities and not institutions. Cecil Ivory was a wheelchair user that led the Rock Hill boycott that put Star Buses out of business. 

Disabled black people have made history in ways you couldn't imagine. Their race and disability shaped their activism and who they were as people. The racial justice movement was built on the backs of disabled black people. Sign our petition if you want to honor their legacy and see disability representation in the National Museum of History and Culture.

This petition is addressed to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Lonnie Bunch and NMAAHC Interim Director, Dr. Spencer Crew. The museum’s founding donors are being asked to sign and support this petition: Oprah Winfrey, Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, Lilly Endowment, Inc., Robert Frederick Smith, Atlantic Philanthropies, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rhimes Family Foundation, David M. Rubenstein, American Express, and Ford Foundation.