Reeve Celebrates Black History Month

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on February 01, 2022 # Community Education

CapitolThe rights that the Black communities achieved through the 1964 Civil Rights Act helped set the stage for the Disability rights movement that gained traction in the 1970s and has continued to make progress with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the subsequent ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Though, Black and disabled history means more than remembering the names of laws and dates of significant events, but also honoring those whose names and faces have been lost to history, acknowledging the sacrifices they made and the movements they have breathed life into. In this vein, the Reeve Foundation will be honoring individuals that are carrying on that fight today through advocacy and outreach in our upcoming blog spotlighting their efforts in the community.

Black communities across this country still fight for equality every day, ensuring their rights and lives are protected. Influenced by the Civil Rights movement, the Disability Rights movement drew on ideologies of equality, representation, and justice through legislature like the Rehabilitation Act. Even after the Civil Rights Act and the Rehabilitation Act, the struggle for equality continues today. Though, Black communities and disabled communities are not alone in their movement for equality and inclusion but are tied to each other. Historically, disabled, and Black communities fought the same battles side by side. In fact, from the mid-1700s until the 1970s, there were a set of laws of what would become known as the Ugly Laws.

The Ugly Laws were a series of legislature that prohibited the public appearance of anyone with a disability and negatively targeted ethnically diverse communities. In 1881, a Chicago elected official, James Peevey, sought out to implement his own rendition of the Ugly Laws, “Peevey was instrumental in pushing an ordinance through the city council that prohibited any person who is “diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object” from being in the “public view.” (Banerjee, 2019). These laws unfairly and unjustly targeted the minorities, disabled, impoverished, and disadvantaged members of society for the sake of homogeneity.

These laws and others like it would even go so far as to sterilize ethnically diverse and disabled individuals to prevent their human right of reproduction, “(Eugenic) teachings spread to the burgeoning American nation—a nation often fraught with fear of immigrants and people of different colors, races, or abilities. This led to the attempt to keep certain people from procreating “(Ciancio, 2020). It is through the efforts of political activists, community members, and allies that the Ugly Laws and other discriminatory legislature were able to be overturned in favor of more forward-thinking laws that protect individuals from disability and race-based discrimination. The connection between these two movements is not tethered to one another because of a common enemy of discriminatory laws but is connected to the shared ideologies and principles of equality. That is because disability rights are, by nature, civil rights.

This month, the Reeve Foundation will be providing a platform for Black and disabled voices to share their stories and the impact they are making in their communities today.

For more on our upcoming stories of impact, keep an eye on the Reeve Blogs or sign up for our newsletter. In the meantime, check out our information on Self Advocacy, a comprehensive brochure that details tips, tactics, and strategies to better advocate for yourself, your needs, and the needs of your loved ones. Advocating for yourself and knowing how to speak for yourself can often be the difference between having yourself and your needs acknowledged or ignored.

For more information on how you can help initiate change today, check out our Advocate for Change page, where you can find out more on how to get involved with Reeve.

To learn more about the free programs and services that the National Paralysis Resource Center offers, please contact [email protected].


Banerjee, P. (2019, October 25). Ugly law: When the US banned unsightly individuals from coming out in public. STSTW Media - Unusual stories and intriguing news. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from

Ciancio, S. (2021, August 26). Eugenic sterilization: History of laws in the U.S. Human Life International. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.