Confederate & Black Disabled People, More Than Statues Buildings Still Stands


PNNscholar1 - Posted on 19 August 2017

Author: 
Leroy Moore
Many disabled authors wrote books about Black disabled/Deaf people from separate Jim Crow schools to lynching of Black disabled people like Jessie Washington in 1918 in Waco, TX.  like Steve Noll Feeble-Minded in our Midst (1995); Mental Retardation in America (2004).  Many Black scholars says police came from slave catchers and we know the biggest name on White slave masters list was a Black disabled woman, Harriet Tubman.  The case of VA police profiling a Black autistic young man and chasing him around arresting him because he was sitting outside on the library's lawn is the continuation of slave masters turn police.  As confederate statues come down, we still walk on properties that were large institutions that not only locked up people with disabilities of all colors but was places of torture and death and not only in the South.
 
 
When I walked on the College of Staten Island for a lecture years ago I knew that this campus has been located on the grounds of the former Willowbrook State School since 1993. It is the largest campus, in terms of physical size, in New York City, I felt it, the many spirits of the resistants of Willowbrook institution that many were buried on that land. I stopped for five minutes and felt that real history!   Another Black disabled community activist and writer, Heather Watkins, led me to a 2016 USA Today article that talked about the discovery of  2,000 to 7,000 bodies that were buried on 20 acres of the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus. The article confirms that the bodies were former patients of the state's mental institution, built in 1855. 
 
Many Black Deaf/disabled large institutions in the South still stand and are college campuses, state buildings, conference halls and more where every day people walk in without noticing the history of these buildings.  
 
Back in the late 1990's I had the honor to interview the Blind Boys of Alabama in their hotel in San Francisco and they told me that the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, Ala., was like a prison compare to the White blind schools that was plush with a library and all kinds of programs.  Alabama School for Negro Deaf-Mutes and Blind (Talladega) was established in 1892 and Integrated with the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, 1968.  That building still stands with of course new construction adding to the campus.
 
So with the recent white supremacy attack in Charlottesville, VA. and taking down confederate statues, I as a Black disabled man, have been thinking, feeling and writing about Black disabled and in general disabled ancestors who lived in these segregated institutions and how we have to deal with historical  trauma every time we step on these properties today that hold a violent history toward people with disabilities.
 
 
Pic:  Of   old Willowbrook institution opened in 1908 to house people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Over 10,000 people were confined there until it, too, was closed in 1987, following exposes and U.S. Supreme Court landmark rulings, setting the stage for deinstitutionalization across the country. Now the old Willoebrook institution is the College Of Staten Island, NY.
By Leroy F. Moore Jr.

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