Recommended Reading for August 11, 2010: Paul Longmore Edition

A collection of links today about Dr Paul Longmore’s life, work, and death. I don’t mind telling you all that I’ve spend most of today sitting here feeling horrible and sad about his death. I know I talked earlier about his impact on my scholarship. I’m reading so many remembrances by other disability historians and scholars today. A major part of both our activist and scholarly community is gone, and I cannot imagine how grief-stricken his close associates must be feeling.

Penny L. Richards writes about Paul Longmore’s contribution to disability history (see comments as well):

*I’ve been co-editing H-Disability since it launched in March 2001. But I had nothing to do with its founding–that’s credited to Paul Longmore and the summer institute where the idea was hatched, long before my involvement.

*I’m president of the Disability History Association right now–but in many ways, the organization exists and thrives because Paul Longmore was very, very persistent when he saw an opportunity to support scholarship on disability.

Book Review by Disability Rights Activist Laura Hershey, on the book Dr Longmore co-edited with Lauri Umansky: The New Disability History–American Perspectives

The essays in The New Disability History: American Perspectives narrate many of the battles disabled people have had to wage for self-respect, autonomy, opportunity, and survival. Some of these battles have been waged in courtrooms, some in state legislatures, some in the pages of magazines. Throughout U.S. history, disabled people have had to organize in order resist the dominant culture’s tendency to dismiss and/or bully them. As editors Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky summarize in their Introduction, “People with disabilities themselves, as individuals and in organized associations, have, in all eras, struggled to control definitions of their social identity, to direct their social careers.”

Dr. Longmore was the the first professor to win the Henry B. Betts Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities.

“I can think of no one that I admire and respect more than Paul. His ideas, work and advocacy have shaped the development of countless young people with disabilities,” Chelberg says. “Paul has given the disability community the intellectual power it needs to push for justice on such wide ranging issues as work disincentives, in-home personal assistance and media images.”

Longmore, who joined SFSU in 1992, has studied disability issues for two decades while also becoming a scholar in American colonial history. He is director of the SFSU Institute on Disability and served as co-director of the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on Disability Studies, a first-of-its-kind event held at SFSU in 2000. Later that year he helped convene the first major academic symposium on disabilities and sexuality.

I haven’t been able to find any of Dr. Longmore’s academic essays freely available online (which is a shame – if you have access to an academic library, I recommend “Why I Burned My Book” as an outstanding essay, which is discussed at NPR’s post about his death), but you can read an article he wrote for the Huffington Post in 2008 (so, during the US election campaign, which focuses on US-election campaign issues): Palin Talks About Special Needs Children, But Obama Has Substantive Plans For All People With Disabilities.

Palin’s promise to be a “friend and advocate” for the families of children with disabilities has some parents understandably excited. In August, University of North Carolina researchers reported “chilling” rates of “hardship” among both middle class and poor families with disabled children as they struggle “to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, and to pay for needed health and dental care.” Large numbers of adults with disabilities face the same hardships.

Even though 90% of Americans with disabilities are adults, Palin, John McCain, and the news media have talked almost exclusively about children. And that talk has been mostly about “compassion” not “issues.” The McCain-Palin campaign website has a single page on “Americans with Disabilities for McCain,” but it says nothing about policy positions. Other pages mention autism and disabled veterans but no other issues.

Stephen at Not Dead Yet is pulling together a list of bloggers that have written about Dr Longmore’s death, which I recommend checking out as well. I found this post by Bess at Right to Design especially moving for me to read, which is not to take away from any of the other touching tributes that Stephen has linked to.

One thought on “Recommended Reading for August 11, 2010: Paul Longmore Edition

  1. I just read his ‘Why I Burned My Book’ for the first time last year. I was shocked and saddened when I saw this announcement! So many of the great disability and feminist scholars whose work has shaped my own (emerging) scholarship have died in recent years – Iris Marion Young, Eve Sedgwick, Chris Bell, Mairian Corker/Scott-Hill…

    How utterly depressing.

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