Scholars point out a tension between racial justice and disability rights activism. Although racial minorities are more likely to become disabled than whites, both disability activism and the historiography of disability politics tends tend to focus on the experience and achievements of whites. This article examines how disability rights activists of the 1970s sought to build a united movement of all people with disabilities and explains why these efforts were unable to overcome cleavages predicated on race. Activists drew from New Left ideas of community and self-help as well as the New Right rhetoric of market freedoms to articulate a vision of liberation for people with disabilities. Though they yearned for racial solidarity, in practice, activists could not overcome institutions that separated antipoverty and racial politics from disability policy, nor could they figure out how to incorporate minority voices in an identity-based movement forged around disability rather than color.

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