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Out of the Horrors of War: Disability Politics in World War II America, Audra Jennings

Reviewed by Aimee Medeiros

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Audra Jennings offers an in-depth look at the early history of the modern disability rights movement by examining disability activism during World War II and its significance. In doing do, she aims to correct the widely held misconception that this movement in the United States grew solely out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, an interpretation that strips disability activism of its own important political history.

The focus of this book is the story of the American Federation of the Physically Handicapped (AFPH). While Jennings is quick to point out that the AFPH was not the founding organization of the disability rights movement, she argues that it did play a transformative role in its development. Unlike previous disability groups, AFPH was a “national, cross-disability social movement organization” that brought together disabled citizens and veterans (p. 3). This created a sense of shared experiences beyond a specific type of disability and fostered an understanding that disability exclusions were attributable to systemic discrimination and not individual failures or misunderstandings. The AFPH also championed a “society in which state policy made possible disabled individuals’ full participation in civic life” (p. 3). While the notion of the role of the federal government underwent a major overhaul during the Great De

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