Pandemic Legacies: Health, Healing, and Medicine in the Age of Slavery and Beyond
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture |
2021 Lapidus Center Conference
October 6-8, 2021
Just as the slave trade tied together the cultures and populations of four continents, it also wed together distinctive disease ecologies. The lack of local populations with exploitable labor in the Americas compelled an increase in the volume of Africans that Europeans forced into the transatlantic slave trade, setting the stage for epidemic diseases and other health issues that shaped the cultural, social, and material life of Atlantic slavery. Genocidal warfare and the destructive effects of Eurasian African epidemic diseases caused the near decimation of Indigenous populations. Yellow fever, a virus native to tropical West Africa, became a common scourge to American ports. Doctors theorizing about the virus developed racial stereotypes that posited that people of African descent were inherently immune to the virus, setting the stage for a range of healthcare disparities that reverberate today.