Disability activists across the United States protested for the passage of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The act would create legal protections for disabled people often denied federal assistance. The 1977 occupation of San Francisco’s federal offices stands as the longest take-over of a federal building in U.S. history and the Black Panthers were key to its victory.
The party was undergoing a transformation in the late 1960s to 1970s. The once well-known militant liberation group was now led predominantly by women. They focused on attending to the health and well-being of children, the elderly, and the disabled.
The May 7th, 1977 cover of “The Black Panther,” the national newsletter of the party, featured Panther members Brad Lomax in a wheelchair being pushed by fellow Panther, Chuck Jackson. This and other photos on the cover showed the world that the Panthers stood in solidarity with the disabled community.
The Panthers’ support sent a resounding message that liberation is for all Black people – that disabled Black community members matter and it was, and still is, imperative we fight for their rights, too.