Title page for ETD etd-65172149731401


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Mitchell, Sarah
URN etd-65172149731401
Title Bodies of Knowledge: The Influence of Slaves on the Antebellum Medical Community
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bunch-Lyons, Beverly
Shifflett, Crandall A.
Jones, Kathleen W. Committee Chair
Keywords
  • none
Date of Defense 1997-05-02
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
The influence of slaves on the south is well

documented in areas such as agriculture, music,

diet, religion and language. This thesis extends the

list to include medicine. It also suggests that the

importance of cultural transfer to America from

places other than Europe has been overlooked in

the history of medicine. The medical influence of

slaves took the form of botanical remedies, many of

them with an African origin, and were disseminated

through the treatments of slave healers. Slave

medical knowledge offered a viable alternative for

whites to both nineteenth-century "heroic" practices

and to alternative methods, such as homeopathy

and Thomsonianism. In addition, the slave's body

itself was a vehicle of medical influence. Informed

by nineteenth-century beliefs about the differences

between whites and blacks, antebellum physicians

performed experiments upon slave bodies that they

could not and did not perform on whites'. Transfer

of slave medical knowledge was facilitated by

personal contact between individuals, by the

publicity surrounding slaves who were set free for

revealing cures, through the services of slave

healers, through newspapers and medical journals in

which whites wrote of slave treatments and

acknowledged the source of the information, and

through word of mouth. This study uses the theme

of ambivalence to reconcile the conflicting attitudes

of southern physicians and slaveowners towards

slave medical knowledge.

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