October 2020

By Jane Dunhamn -- October is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Disability Employment Awareness Month, however this October I want to answer the question that for many years people have asked; why my commitment to disability work extended from role of parent to Black disability activism.  It is an easy response, in that once I saw that disability issues were much more complex than helping my child, of course it was my responsibility to do the work.  My parents taught me to speak up and speak out whenever racism was at work and not to fear speaking to power.  The below article gives history and homage to my Dad whose birthday is October 16th. The letter begs the question, has much changed?

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May 24, 1943

President Roosevelt

Washington, DC

Mr. President,

I am mailing you a colored newspaper, the New York Amsterdam News.  Please read the article on page one of section one and continued on page eight, headlined, “Lieutenant, Wife Beaten in Columbus, Georgia Theatre”.

I am a Negro forty four years of age and all out for the military.  I am employed in the defense industry, namely, Sun Ship and Dry Dock Company located in Chester, Pennsylvania. I am an electric welder and contribute ten per cent of my wages every week for Defense Bonds.  I had a very good and responsible position before giving it up for defense work.

I am almost sure that you can’t be acquainted with all the facts concerning the ill-treatment that besets the Negro race but I think this case should be brought to your attention.  I read of cases similar to Lt. Wall every week and it is nigh time something is done about it.  Although I am not acquainted with all the details, I am positive that the “Associated Negro Press” would not print any such statement if it were not true. Therefore, I am taking the liberty of calling this  case to your attention.

We all have a job to do; we on the home front as well as those overseas. We are fighting a war for democracy.  Lt. Wall is in the armed forces and he knows no race as far as democracy is concerned.

You get very little information of this sort in Caucasian newspapers but we read about similar incidents almost every day in Negro newspapers.  If it isn’t a member of the armed forces it is a civilian.

Please give this matter your serious attention.

Respectfully yours,

Maskus Dunhamn