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Black History Hero: Lois Curtis

Updated: Mar 21


Lois Curtis, the plaintiff in the Olmstead v. L.C. Supreme Court case, (center) presents President Barack Obama with a self-portrait of herself as a child that she painted. Joining them are, from left, Janet Hill and Jessica Long, from the Georgia Department of Labor, and Lee Sanders, of Briggs and Associates. The Oval Office, 20 June 2011 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Lois Curtis, the plaintiff in the Olmstead v. L.C. Supreme Court case, (center) presents President Barack Obama with a self-portrait of herself as a child that she painted. Joining them are, from left, Janet Hill and Jessica Long, from the Georgia Department of Labor, and Lee Sanders, of Briggs and Associates. The Oval Office, 20 June 2011 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By the time she was 11 years old Lois Curtis was living in an institution where she was over-medicated for her mental health and cognitive diagnoses. She was miserable there, and as a teenager Lois began regularly calling the Atlanta Legal Aid Society to ask them to help her win her release from the institutional setting.


With Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s help, Lois and co-plaintiff Elaine Wilson sued the state of Georgia. Their case went to the Supreme Court. In the now-famous 1999 “Olmstead” decision, the court declared that Lois and other people with disabilities have the right to live in the community and to be provided assistance to do so. The Court ruled that unnecessary institutionalization is a form of segregation and is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Today, Lois has a support system that makes it possible for her to live in an apartment. She is an artist and activist who enjoys traveling, attending church, spending time with friends, and being part of her community.

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