A disability history of the United States

by Kim E. Nielsen

Paper Book, 2012


Covers the entirety of U.S. disability history, from pre-1492 to the present. Disability is not just the story of someone we love or the story of whom we may become; rather it is undoubtedly the story of our nation. It places the experiences of people with disabilities at the center of the American narrative. In many ways, it's a familiar telling. In other ways, however, it is a radical repositioning of U.S. history. By doing so, the book casts new light on familiar stories, such as slavery and immigration, while breaking ground about the ties between nativism and oralism in the late nineteenth century and the role of ableism in the development of democracy. This work pulls from primary-source documents and social histories to retell American history through the eyes, words, and impressions of the people who lived it. As the author, a historian and disability scholar argues, to understand disability history isn't to narrowly focus on a series of individual triumphs but rather to examine mass movements and pivotal daily events through the lens of varied experiences. Throughout the book, he illustrates how concepts of disability have deeply shaped the American experience from deciding who was allowed to immigrate to establishing labor laws and justifying slavery and gender discrimination. Included are narratives of blinded slaves being thrown overboard and women being involuntarily sterilized, as well as triumphant accounts of disabled miners organizing strikes and disability rights activists picketing Washington. This work fundamentally reinterprets how we view our nation's past: from a stifling master narrative to a shared history that encompasses us all.… (more)



Call number



Boston : Beacon Press, ©2012.

User reviews

LibraryThing member staciewyatt
I read A disability history of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen, in exchange for review from Netgalley. The book was published by Beacon Press. I chose this book because I have special needs children. I would not consider them disabled but delayed. (My oldest has Autism and ADHD; My youngest has
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developmental delays. He is not walking or talking yet. He also has fine motor delays. )

The book discusses the history of disabilities--from the definition to stereotypes--to laws--to even discussing the infamous R word (retarded) and other derogatory words. The book also discusses temporary and permanent disabilities. Finally, the book mentions how we should embrace disabled individuals. Everyone has a gift, no matter the age or disorder or disease or disability. Everyone has a light to shine. The author has a daughter with a disability.

People with disabilities desire the same things, everyone else does--social interaction, relationships, acknowledgement, and thanks. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about disabilities.
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LibraryThing member AmphipodGirl
Four stars for being good, scholarly historical work; the fifth star for being interesting, thought-provoking material that broadened my mind and worldview. Be aware that some of the material in here is kind of harsh (eugenics, forced sterilization, murder and abuse of enslaved people, decimation
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of the Native population).
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