Vilissa Thompson

Senior Fellow


Vilissa Thompson

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Vilissa Thompson is a senior fellow at American Progress. She is one of the preeminent thought leaders within the disability community focusing on racial and gender justice issues. Selected as the sole openly disabled woman in Essence magazine’s 2018 “Woke 100 Women,” Thompson has been consistently on the front lines of ensuring discussions of race and gender are inclusive of the experiences of disabled people on various issues. In 2016, she launched #DisabilityTooWhite, a hashtag that offered an important critique of media coverage, community leadership, and public policy that centered whiteness, as opposed to those who are most affected by the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism. The hashtag and presentations about it at national conferences have initiated important conversations at both a federal and grassroots levels for disabled leaders of color trying to find their space in movement work. This led to Thompson’s construction of the groundbreaking Black Disabled Woman Syllabus, an online and continually growing tool that has been cited as a critical addition to current discussions of women’s health, carceral reform, body positivity, and mental health. The creation of the resource landed her recognition in key publications such as Forbes and Essence as well as her participation as a panelist for a conference at the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University. As a member of the National Association of Black Social Workers, Thompson continues to educate her peers in the social work field to look beyond the medical model of disability. Thompson received her B.A. in psychology and her master’s degree in social work from Winthrop University.