Associate Director

Jenifer L. Barclay

Jenifer L. Barclay is the Associate Director of the Center for Disability Studies and an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Barclay’s first book, The Mark of Slavery: Disability, Race, and Gender in Antebellum America, was published in 2021 by the University of Illinois Press in its “Disability Histories” series. Supported by prestigious pre- and postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson Institute and Case Western Reserve University, this work is one of the first full-length monographs about slavery that centers disability. It adds a new perspective to the social history of American slavery, illuminates the role of ableism in the production of racial ideologies and white supremacy, and contributes to a dynamic body of emerging scholarship that deals with Black experiences of disability prior to the twentieth century. Barclay has also authored several articles and book chapters in publications such as Slavery & AbolitionWomen, Gender, and Families of Color; and The Oxford Handbook of Disability History. She is currently working on an edited collection, Cripping the Archive: Disability, Historyand Power with co-editor Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy and conducting research for her next book, Between Two Worlds: Disability and Segregation in Southern Education from Emancipation to Integration.

Throughout her career, Barclay has forged connections with scholars and activists in and outside of the United States to advance the fields of disability history and disability studies. Since 2017, she has worked as an Associate Editor for the Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal, helping to develop special issues on topics like disability studies in educational leadership and disability in Africa. For several years she served on the Organization of American Historians’ Committee on Disability and Disability History, which focuses on promoting disability history, making the field more accessible, and identifying and addressing the specific concerns of historians with disabilities. Barclay has also consulted with the National Park Service on their forthcoming Disability History Handbook and is a contributor to the New York City Department of Education’s forthcoming Hidden Voices: Perspectives of Americans with Disabilities(edited by Michael Rembis), an instructional resource designed to support K-12 teachers in creating a more inclusive and representative curriculum. 

Reviews of Selected Publications

The Mark of Slavery

“Jenifer Barclay offers us a powerful, deeply researched, and rich study of the meanings of disability in the antebellum South. The sheer breadth of literature that this work speaks to is impressive. . . . The Mark of Slavery is a critical intervention into fields that have ignored or marginalized disability.” -American Nineteenth Century History

“Barclay’s work pays close attention to emotion and interpersonal relations, identifying disability as both a social force and individual lived experience that humanizes her research subjects and emphasizes their agency.” -Journal of American Ethnic History

“Addressing an often-overlooked aspect of the experiences of enslaved people, Barclay intricately examines the connection between racism, disabilities and slavery, as well as the legacy it left behind, in this important and well-researched volume.” -Ms. Magazine

“This original work adds an important new voice to conversations about slavery, disability, and medical history. Exceptional analysis of an understudied topic.” -Library Journal (starred review)

“Highly recommended.” -Choice​​

“Barclay's deft handling of disability through her archival research, the brilliance of her scholarship on the ways that blackness becomes synonymous with disability, her skillful use of Black Critical Disability Studies as a methodological framework, and clear and persuasive prose allows us greater insight into the debilitating effects of slavery as a disabling device for its victims.” -Deirdre Cooper Owens, author of Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology