Paul K. Longmore

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Paul K. Longmore (July 10, 1946 – August 9, 2010) was a professor of history, an author, and notable disability activist who taught at San Francisco State.[1]


Deprived of the use of his hands when he was seven-years-old due to polio, and requiring the use of a ventilator during the night and for part of the day to breathe,[2][3] he wrote his first book, The Invention of George Washington, by holding a pen in his mouth and punching the keyboard with it, a task which took a decade.

Paul Longmore was the leading historian who specialized in the field of disability publishing, for example, in the "Reviews in American History" (Longmore, 1987 on the "hidden history of people with disabilities"). He was instrumental in bringing a vibrant history to light instead of accounts representing the establishment regarding clients, treatments, and techniques. He authored the preface to the "Encyclopedia of American History of Disability" and was active in national and international affairs such as meetings with the World Institute on Disability and their guests.

He later burned his own book (as recounted in Why I Burned My Book, and Other Essays in Disability) in front of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles in 1988 in protest against restrictive Social Security policies which virtually precluded disabled professionals from earning a living and thus achieving or maintaining economic independence.[4] Some of the most restrictive of these disincentives (such as those which precluded earned income from book royalties, in his case)[5] were shortly thereafter reversed in a policy change which became known as the Longmore Amendment.[6]

A major figure in the establishment of disability as a field of academic study in its own right, an endeavor analogous to the establishment of race, class, gender, and queer studies of previous decades,[7] Longmore was a co-founder in 1996 of San Francisco State's Institute on Disability, a program which he later directed and propagated to other colleges and universities. He was also a major campaigner against the assisted suicide movement in California,[8] and was the first professor to be awarded the Henry B. Betts Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).[9]

Longmore died unexpectedly in August 2010.[10] San Francisco State University has since renamed the institute the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability,[11] which is now under the direction of disability historian Catherine J. Kudlick, PhD.[12]