GETTING CURIOUS | What’s At The Heart Of Black Disability Politics? with Professor Sami Schalk


In 1977 more than 100 disabled activists in San Francisco took over a federal building for 25 days. It was the longest non-violent occupation of a federal building in United States history. As they advocated for their rights, they found an ally in the Black Panther Party, which understood that disability rights were connected with their own anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist racial justice work. This week, Professor Sami Schalk joins Jonathan to discuss how Black cultural workers have approached disability as a social and political issue in the U.S. from the 1970s to the present, and what it looks like to honor Black disability politics through language, legislation, and beyond. 

Sami Schalk is an associate professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race & Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction (Duke UP 2018) and Black Disability Politics (Duke UP 2022). Schalk identifies as a fat Black queer disabled femme and a pleasure activist. 

You can follow Professor Schalk on Twitter @drsamischalk and on Instagram as @fierceblackfemme. 

Her new book Black Disability Politics is essential reading, and Professor Schalk has made it open access, so make sure to track down a copy—and drop in on one of the hybrid launch events in the coming weeks!

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Jonathan is on Instagram and Twitter @JVN and @Jonathan.Vanness on Facebook.

Transcripts for each episode are available at

Our executive producer is Erica Getto. Our associate producer is Zahra Crim. Our editor is Andrew Carson.

Our theme music is “Freak” by QUIÑ; for more, head to

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness