Disabled Black History Month: Week 3

This is week three of four by guest blogger, para-athlete Dorian Taylor, for Black History Month. They are chronicling #disabledblackhistorymonth, sharing interesting and inspiring stories of badass individuals you should know about, so we’ll be doing a weekly round-up of their shout-outs all month. Check out these mini bios, and feel free to share names or stories of those who inspire you for #blackhistorymonth and #disabledblackhistorymonth in the comments.

by Dorian Taylor



(Black and white photo of two disabled men. One is black one is white the man on the left is black, he is standing, blind with a guide dog, and he has a short for afro. The man on the right is in an electric chair. The picture is black and white and was taken during the seventies. The electric chair is of that time.)

Donald Galloway went blind at the age of 13, due to lack of medical care after an accident. He started out as a folk singer, eventually earning his master's degree in social work. He then went on to direct the Jamaican Peace Corps. A leader in self-advocacy and social work, he was the manager for Disability Affairs at both DC Department of Housing Community Development, and DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. In 1993 he made national history by suing the federal government. He sued that being blind could not automatically discriminate someone from serving on juries. A judge ruled that it would have to be on a case-by-case basis. He sued the government again because he was turned down from a foreign administrative job due to his blindness. That case was settled out of court.

(Color photo of Betty Williams, she is in a floral top and has a big smile. She wears glasses and her hair is in ringlets that fall just below her ears)

Betty Williams is a leader in the self-advocacy movement for people with intellectual/ developmental disabilities. Former President of SABE (Self Advocates Becoming Empowered) & SAI (Self Advocates of Indiana). She is responsible for bills in Indiana that provide more competitive employment opportunities for people with all disabilities (sub minimum wage is still legal in most States). 

Here is a link of Betty talking about the importance of self advocacy within disabled communities: https://youtu.be/vfRhv47VvpA

(Color photo of Jazzie, her head is turned to the right and she has dark red ringlets down to her ears. She is wearing a black top and silver necklace)

Jazzie Collins, openly HIV positive, was a Bay area social justice activist. She was a volunteer for Senior and Disability Action and Vice Chair of the LGBTQ Aging Policy Task Force. She was also on the Board of Directors for SF Pride Trans March. She was also very involved in Tenants Rights.


(Color photo of Curtis Pride. He's wearing a Montreal Jersey and is holding a baseball bat over his right shoulder. His head is turned towards the camera and he is smiling.)

Curtis Pride was born deaf, but his deafness was not discovered until he was 9 years old. He played minor league baseball for 8 years while putting himself through college at William & Mary's. Often made fun of by his teammates for his voice, he was discouraged from trying to play Major League Baseball because he could not hear the crack of the bat or his teammates. "I refused to give up although there were several times I thought about quitting. I also knew if I kept believing in myself, kept working hard I would eventually make it into the Major Leagues."

Curtis Pride played MLB for 13 years, from 1993 to 2006. Although he is not the first deaf major league baseball player he is considered the first full season deaf MLB player. In 2016 he became Major League Baseball's ambassador for inclusion. He is in his ninth year of coaching baseball at Gallaudet University. 


(Color photo of Kathy B Woods, she is a Little Person, she's wearing a red snakeskin dress, she has a smile and is facing the camera)

Kathy D Woods is the founder and CEO of KDW Collection ready wear fashion for Little Women. Recognizing the need for fashion and function for Little Women, Kathy created her own clothing line. She often faces discrimination from investors, other designers and even fabric companies who see her clothes as "one hit wonders."

She is also an advocate for women with disabilities and speaks publicly about the intersections between disability and being a black woman. She was invited to speak at the White House for 25 anniversary of the ADA. KDW'S success shows the growing awareness for the different clothing needs for disabled people.


(Sepia photo of Thomas, wearing a jacket and holding an album, seated.)

Thomas "Blind Tom"Green Wiggins was born blind, and although there was no such diagnosis at the time, he is now known as an autistic savant. Mostly nonverbal, he would communicate mostly in grunts and repeating what someone else said. Known to have a phenomenal memory, by age 4 he was playing piano by ear, by 5 composing his first song, "The Rain Storm," by 8 he was being hired out as a slave musician. Considered one of the greatest American composers of the 19th century, unfortunately only his sheet music is available today. By 1860 he performed in the White House, making him the first black person to perform there. He was performing in Europe by the age of 16.

In 1868, there was a huge custody battle for Thomas. By then, slavery had ended, and his mother Charity Wiggins was also fighting for custody. It should be noted that the 13th Amendment did not include developmental and cognitive disabilities until 1965, therefore, his mother did not win custody or control of any of his profits. His previous owner's son did, and he lived his entire life in slavery. He was one of the most profitable musicians that time, earning his owners up to $100,000 a year (equivalent to 1.5 million in 2004 value). His owner had originally planned to murder him as an infant and he was only kept alive because he was discovered to be profitable when he could play the piano by the age of 3.

He performed and composed many works until 1905, when he had a stroke. He passed in 1908. There's a commemorative headstone that was erected in 1976 in Columbus, GA.

(Black and white photo of Sojourner Truth. She has a white bonnet on, her head is facing downward)

Sojourner Truth, a well-known abolitionist and women's rights activist, had a disabled hand. Often written out of history to the point that paintings of her would often omit her disabled hand, and pictures would only be taken of her doing things like knitting, in order to hide the hand. She would often reference her body in her speeches, even showing her breast at one point. The depictions of the strong arm that she held up during the speech fail to mention her hand. The second half of her speech A'rnt I a woman makes reference to disability. It is often debated by scholars whether or not that reference was to herself or disabled people in general.