UK Disability History Month: Highlighting a forgotten figure

UK Disability History Month: Highlighting a forgotten figure

Between Wednesday 16th November 2022 and Friday 16th December 2022 it is UK Disability History Month, with this years theme focusing on 'Disability, Health and Well Being'.


We thought we'd use this opportunity to highlight an often forgotten figure with short stature, best known for his early and strident anti-slavery activities which would culminate in dramatic protests; Benjamin Lay

                  Benjamin Lay- the forgotten activist with dwarfism

Benjamin Lay was born and raised in Colchester UK before becoming a sailor, and eventually finding himself in Pennsylvania in the USA. As an early advocate for the immediate abolition of slavery, Benjamin Lay, a Quaker with dwarfism, wrote a scathing attack on Quaker slaveholders which was later published by Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the USA. This in turn resulted in him being disowned by the Quaker community.

A fan of the dramatics, Lay once splattered the Quaker slave owners in red berry juice, stating "Thus shall God shed the blood of those persons who enslave their fellow creatures." His dramatic public protests and boycott of all items produced by slave labour later inspired Quakers to become the first religious group to abolish slavery within their own ranks in 1776. The Quakers would go on to be at the forefront of the campaign against slavery, which would ultimately be abolished in the US in 1865.

He was also an author, farmer, vegetarian, and distinguished by his early concern for the ethical treatment of animals.

In November 2017, almost 300 years after his denunciation, the North London Quakers recognised the wrong they had done in their treatment of Lay, accepting the group had "not walked the path we would later understand to be the just one". Benjamin Lays grave was later marked in Pennsylvania in 2018 in recognition of all of the work he had done towards the abolition of slavery


Want to know more about UK disability history month? Many resources, interesting articles around this years theme and stories highlighting positive news within the community can be found on the official website HERE

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