Disability Social History Project

Famous (and not-so-famous) People with Disabilities

Paul Longmore, disability scholar and activist (from U.S.A. 1946-2010)

  Paul Longmore speaking at mic
Paul Longmore speaking at the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Photo: Suzanne C. Levine)

(Biography from San Francisco State University's Disability Studies Institute) Paul K. Longmore, Professor of History and Director of the Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, specializes in Early American history and the history of people with disabilities. He earned his Ph.D. at the Claremont Graduate School and his B.A. and M.A. at Occidental College.

Longmore's book The Invention of George Washington (University of California Press, 1988; paper University Press of Virginia, 1998) is a study of Washington as a political actor and conscious shaper of his public image. Longmore has also written articles in scholarly journals and newspapers on themes related to Early American history and to the history of people with disabilities and their contemporary civil rights struggle. With Lauri Umansky, he co-edited The New Disability History: American Perspectives (New York University Press, 2001), an anthology of essays, and is co-editing a book series, The History of Disability, for NYU Press. A collection of his writings entitled Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability was published by Temple University Press in 2003.

He has taught at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and the California Polytechnic University at Pomona.

San Francisco State University's Institute on Disability is a pioneering multidisciplinary research, curriculum-development, and community-service program. From 1983 to 1986, Longmore served as the administrator of the Program in Disability and Society at the University of Southern California, one of the first disability studies projects in the United States.

Longmore was featured in the historical documentary film “George Washington: The Man Who Wouldn't Be King” on the PBS series The American Experience. He has been interviewed regarding disability-related issues on ABC's Nightline, ABC's World News Tonight, NBC's Today, and National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, as well as in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, McCall's, and TV Guide.

He has obtained grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct a Summer Institute on Disability Studies, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association for research on George Washington, the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research to examine the impact of disability studies curricula, and the U.S. Department of Education to direct a mentoring project to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities from college to careers. He has also received an Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities at Stanford University, a Huntington Library Research Fellowship, and an H. B Earhart Foundation Research Fellowship.

In March 2005, he received the Henry B. Betts Award, given annually by the American Association of Persons with Disabilities and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to “honor an individual whose work and scope of influence have significantly improved the quality of life for people with disabilities in the past, and will be a force for change in the future.” The award carries with it an unencumbered grant of $50,000.

Obituary from the Los Angeles Times "Unable to use his hands because of a childhood bout with polio, Paul K. Longmore wrote his first book by punching a keyboard with a pen he held in his mouth. It took him 10 years, and when he was done, he burned a copy in front of the Federal Building downtown.

By taking a match to "The Invention of George Washington" in 1988, the scholar brought national attention to a campaign to reform Social Security policies that discourage disabled professionals from working."