Preface: no notes needed here–the article speaks for itself. 

I guess the real research questions to ask should be ethnography focused, and include:

    • a) how many errors are in the text for the time it was written?
    • b) how many subjective statements are given?
    • c) how many objective statements? and finally,
    • d) how many cultural?



Link to Book

[Teaching notes appear at the end of these two articles, just before the copy of the introduction to this periodical.  Some minor proof-reading may still be needed.]


Southern Medical Reports, Volume 2

 Erasmus Darwin Fenner (ed.)

   Vol. 2 (1850), 421-436



Samuel A. Cartwright was strong pro-slavery spokesperson.  He developed his own medical theories for the impacts of slavery on the health of African Americans.  Drapetomania, or Runaway Slave Syndrome (covered more thoroughly on another page), is an excellent example of a time-sensitive culturally-bound syndrome. (Link, for a brief review of this.)







[By referring to our article on the proceedings of the Louisiana State Medical Society, it will be seen that we gave a somewhat lengthy notice of a paper read by Dr. Cartwright. on the Diseases Peculiar to Negroes, and expressed our regrets that the learned author had not brought forward more authorities to support his positions. We regretted our inability to publish the paper, and particularly because we had urged him to write it. Since that time, the Doctor has kindly furnished us the following short paper, giving his peculiar views in a more condensed form, and we cheerfully insert it, although out of its proper place, which would be among the reports from Louisiana. His name, however, is so completely identified with Medicine in Mississippi, that his paper will ionic in very well among the reports from that State. We are happy in being able to place it in connection with an interesting communication on the management of negroes, from an unprofessional friend.—Ed.]


In the Report on the Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race, read before the Medical Association of Louisiana, and published in the ‘New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal,’ of May last, I briefly enumerated some of the more striking anatomical and physiological differences separating the negro from the white man. Attention was also called to the fact, that the same medical treatment which would benefit or cure a white man, would often injure or kill a negro, because of the differences in the organic or physical characters imprinted by the hand of nature on the two races. It was not deemed necessary, in that brief paper, to refer to authorities to prove the facts enumerated, which are just as well known and established in that branch of Medicine embracing comparative anatomy and physiology, as the size and motion of the planets in astronomy. The report was not drawn up to meet objections coming from

those persons who had never made comparative anatomy and physiology a special study. But as they have made objections to it, and are inclined to look upon the facts it sets forth as a farrago of nonsense, or at least as very questionable assertions, needing proof, the object of this paper is to give them the proof. This trouble might have been spared, if the comparative anatomy and physiology of the different races of mankind had not been strangely neglected in the course of instruction in the medical schools of the present day. In Europe, where there is but one race of mankind to treat, comparative anatomy and physiology are of no great practical importance: nevertheless, these branches have been extensively cultivated, particularly in Germany and France, by the greatest men that have ever adorned the medical profession. In this country, comparative anatomy has been very much neglected, and comparative physiology and therapeutics more so. Our Northern States, like Europe, contain but one race of men, (except a few worthless free negroes) and all the medical instruction of the books and schools in that region is confined to that one race. But here, in the South, we have two distinct races of people living in juxta-position, in nearly equal numbers, differing widely in their anatomy and physiology, and consequently requiring a corresponding difference in their medical treatment. Yet, when it was asserted in the report that the Queen of England’s medical advisers, without a knowledge of the physical differences between the Ethiopian and Caucasian, would not be qualified to prescribe for a negro, great exceptions were taken to the remark by those who are aware that different temperaments, as the sanguine and phlegmatic, require important modifications in medical treatment, but were not aware that Cuvier, Ebel, Soemmering, Malpighi, Pechlin, Meckel, Albinus, Stubner, Virey, Blumenbach, and many other illustrious men, have long ago demonstrated, by dissections, so great a difference in the organization of the negro from that of the white man, as to induce the majority of naturalists to refer him to a different species, having a different origin. So great is the difference in the medical treatment demanded by the peculiar organization, physiology and habits of our black population, that very learned physicians from Europe and the Northern States, on first coming South, have felt and acknowledged their incompetency to treat their diseases successfully until they have had time to make themselves acquainted “with their peculiarities. The owners of slaves consider it safer, in most cases, to trust to the empiricism of overseers, rather than to the regular doctors who are newcomers, practising on the false abolition theory that the negro is only a lampblacked white man. There is nothing to prevent young physicians, new-comers to the South, from treating negroes successfully, if they were to study their diseases, their anatomy, physiology and pathology, with half the care they devote to the white paupers in the Northern and European hospitals and almshouses. On coming South, they find no such class of persons as those whom they have mostly studied, to treat. They not only find no complaints arising from want of food, fire, clothing, and the common comforts of life, such as they have been accustomed to see in the hospitals, but they find one-half the population composed of a people whose anatomy and physiology is a sealed book to them. Although the every-day experience of the Southern people proves that nature has made so great a difference between the white and black races as to make it absolutely necessary, for the safety of the State and well-being of Society, that the latter should be subjected to different laws and institutions from the former, yet the textbooks of the Northern medical schools contain not a syllable to show what that difference is, hut advise the same rules and principles, and the same therapeutic agents, as if there was no other race of mankind than that inhabiting the Northern States.

The popular error prevalent at the North, that the negro is a white man, but, by some accident of climate or locality, painted black, requiring nothing but liberty and equality—social and political —to wash him white, is permitted to go uncorrected by the Northern medical schools. This error can be .and should be corrected at the dissecting table, by reviving comparative anatomy, and making it an essential part of a medical education. If the Northern schools will not correct it, the Southern schools, instead of being, as they now are, Northern institutions located in the South, using the same text-books, and echoing the same doctrines, should take upon themselves its correction, and have their own text-books, containing not only the anatomy, physiology and therapeutics applicable to the white race of people, but the anatomy, physiology and therapeutics of the black race, also. As soon as they do this, the empire of medical learning will come South, where the study of two races of people will give students better opportunities of acquiring knowledge than the one race at the North. Physicians will also reclaim the practice, among three millions of people, that the overseers have mostly got. It will be to the interest of the planters to employ physicians instead of overseers to treat the diseases of their negroes, as soon as they properly qualify themselves for this branch of Southern practice. I have never known, in all my experience, a Southern country physician want practice who was properly qualified to treat the diseases of negroes. It is only those radical men whose knowledge is confined to the diseases, the anatomy and physiology of only one race of men, as contained in the Northern hornbooks in Medicine, who are superseded by overseers and empirical practitioners.

So little attention has been paid to the anatomy and physiology of the negro race, that when it was mentioned among other peculiarities of the negro, that his blood was blacker than the white man’s, it was supposed by those physicians who have paid no attention to comparative anatomy and physiology, that I was making random assertions, requiring proof, instead of reiterating truths that have been known for centuries, needing no other proof than the perusal of works of the highest authority in Medicine.

Thus, Malpighi, the celebrated anatomist, of rete mucosum memory, says:—’La couleur noire reside non seulement dans le fluide qui colore le tissu muqueux, mais encore le sang, le part corticale du cerveau et plusieurs autres partes internes du corps impregnees d’une teinte noire, et ce qui a ete remarque egalement par d’autres observateurs.’

Here is not only the authority of Malpighi in proof of the darker color of the negro’s blood, and the impregnation of the brain, membranes, and other internal parts of the body, with a darker hue, but likewise his testimony that other observers had remarked the same thing.

J. F. Meckel (see vol. xiii., p. 69, Mem. Acad. Berlin) says, that not only the blood, but the bile and cortical part of the brain are of a darker color in the negro than the white man. According to his authority, the negro is not only a negro on the skin, but under the skin. The words of that great c mparative anatomist are:—’ Le negre n’est done pas seulement negre & l’exterieure, mais dans toutes ses partes et jusque dans les plus profondement situees.’

Nich. Pechlin, in a work entitled ‘ De cute AEthiopium,’ and Albinus, (‘ Diss, de sede et causa coloris AEthiop.’) have remarked, that not only the blood, but the muscles of the negro are of a darker red than the white man. These authors also state that the membranes, tendons and aponeuroses, so brilliantly white in the Caucasian race, have a livid cloudiness in the African.

J. J. Virey, one of the authors of the great Dictionary of Medical Sciences, Paris, says, in the thirty-fifth volume, page 388, that the negro’s flesh differs in color from the white man’s, as the flesh of the hare differs from the rabbit. This author confirms every thing said in the report about the darker color of the blood, membranes, smaller size of the brain, and larger size of the nerves in the negro than the white man.

The celebrated anatomists, Soemmering and Ebel, also speak of the darker color of the blood, muscles, etc. These anatomists confirm every word in the report about the brain being smaller, and the nerves larger, in the black, than in the white race.

MM. Cuvier, Gall and Spurzheim, also found the capacity of the brain about a ninth less in the negro than in the European.

Samuel George Morton (see ‘ Observations on the size of the Brain in Various Races and Families of Man,’ Philadelphia, 1849) has ascertained that the negro’s brain is nine cubic inches less than the white man’s.

Lately, some attempts have been made by British abolitionists to distort the facts of science, by representing the African brain as equal to that of the European, and the mind of the former equal to the latter. A certain Dr. Robert Bently Todd, of King’s College, London, in a work on the ‘ Anatomy of the Brain, Spinal Cord and Ganglions,’ (London, 1845,) endeavors to throw some doubt and uncertainty on the received and well established facts in regard to the inferiority of the negro’s intellect, the comparative smallness of his brain, and the larger size of his nerves. Also, James Cowles Pritchard, another British writer, author of the ‘Researches on the Physical History of Mankind,’ in four volumes, (London, 1844,) an abolition work, disguised under the pretence (sic) that the authority of the Bible would be impeached if the great differences that natural historians and comparative anatomists professed to have discovered in mankind, were not called in question. Fritchard, in the preface of his work, admits that the weight of authority in the learned world is altogether against his conclusions. His conclusions, not flowing from the premises, prove that scientific truth was not the object of his work; that it was not written for learned men, but to cast dust into the eyes of the vulgar, to prevent them from seeing the truth on the slavery question. He pretends to be very fearful that the learned anatomists and naturalists, unless held in check, will bring the scriptures into disrepute. He does not seem to be aware of what Cardinal Wiseman justly observes, that ‘it is only half-way science and half-way truths that militate against the authority of the Bible.’ The whole truth, when brought out, and perfect freedom of science to pursue its investigations untrammelled to its terminus, have, in every instance, demonstrated the truth of the Bible, while imperfect investigations and the omission of the truth, or the tying science down to the narrow interpretations of biblical commentators, have generally led to skepticism and infidelity. Fritchard seems to be so much afraid that if the differences which Malpighi, Soemmering, Cuvier and other comparative anatomists have discovered in the negro’s organization, approximating him to the monkey tribes, be admitted, the Bible will be invalidated, that he has taken much pains to try to overturn general truths and principles by partial exceptions. He adduces instances to prove that white persons have turned black, in whole or in part, and that the negro’s skin has, in some instances, turned white. But he ought to know that the change of color in all such cases is the effect of disease.  Dr. Rush was so much afraid that the black skin, thick lips and flat nose of the negro would invalidate the Mosaic account of the creation of

man, and the unity of the human family, that he published, in the Medical Repository, (vol. iv., p. 409) some suggestions, attributing the black color, thick lips and flat nose, to a disease resembling leprosy. But observation proved that, so far from the black color being caused by disease, the blackest negroes were always the healthiest, and the thicker the lips and the flatter the nose, the sounder the constitution. Both Pritchard and Todd labor to prove by a few cases, exceptions to the general rule, that the brain of the negro and his mental capacity aro equal to the white man, lest the scriptures be invalidated, if .any inferior slave race be admitted. They overlooked the fact that the Mosaic history distinctly specifies an inferior slave race of people, called Canaanites, Gibeonites, etc., and that these people were reduced to slavery, and their country taken from them, by Divine command. In aiming to overthrow Cuvier’s specific traits of the negro’s organization, Pritchard did not seem to be aware that Cuvier and Moses agree exactly in their definitions — both defining the negro as the ‘knee-bender.’ (See Cuvier’s Mem. du Museum d’Histoire Nat., tome iii., p. 159—where the anatomical structure of the negro’s knees is brought forward, by the greatest naturalist the world ever saw, as a specific difference between him and the white man, and also the inferiority of intellect, from the diminished quantity of brain). Exactly the same things are set forth in the inspired writings, by the name given to the Canaanite, or Ethiopian, race — the Hebrew verb, Canah, from which the word Canaan is derived, literally meaning knee-bender crushed or broken in mind;—tantamount to Cuvier’s race of man with weak and timid mind, and les genoux a demi-flechis. Hence it would appear that the Bible does not stand in need of Todd, Pritchard, and other British abolitionists to support its truth by special pleading, or by dodging the truths of science.

Both Todd and Pritchard are compelled to admit that the negro’s blood is darker than the white man’s; but they deny that the brain is of a darker color, as Meckel, Pechlin, Albinus, Malpighi, and many other comparative anatomists have asserted. They quote three dissections made by Soemmering, where the difference in color was not apparent, but rather unnaturally white. They concealed the fact, or did not know it, that disease tends to obliterate the dark color that pervades the negro’s organization, giving the deeper-seated parts an unnatural whiteness. Thus, as the report sets forth, in negro consumption, the mucous membranes, instead of being dark, are paler and whiter than in the Caucasian race. It would be very unfair to adduce those cases of whiteness of the gums and mucous surfaces in diseased or consumptive negroes, to disprove the fact of darkness being the general rule.

Todd and Pritchard labor much to call in question the facts, heretofore observed by comparative anatomists, that the nerves leading from the brain are larger, in proportion, than in the white man. Yet they are forced to admit that the negro’s sense of smell and hearing is more acute. The auditory and olfactory nerves must, therefore, be larger, or the physiological law of nervous development being proportional to activity of function must be denied. Those, likewise, who deny that the nerves of the stomach are no larger in the negro than the white man, are compelled to admit that his digestive and assimulating powers arc stronger, which is the same thing as to admit that the nerves of organic life are larger.

Everything asserted in the report in regard to the negro’s eye, and his bearing sunlight without a covering on his head, will be fully confirmed by reference to Sam. Thorn. Soemmering’s work, entitled ‘ lcones Oculi Humani,’ where it is distinctly stated that the plica lunaris in the inner canthus of the negro’s eye is anatomically constructed like that of the ourang-outang, and not like that of the white man.

Virey confirms every word said in the report about the small size of infant negroes’ heads, and the sutures being closed. (See Diet, des Science Med., vol. xxxv., p. 401).

In regard to the bones of the negro being harder, whiter, and containing more phosphate of lime than those of the white man, naturalists universally agree. Herodotus mentions the greater hardness of the Ethiopian skulls; proving, in that respect, at least, that the negro is the same now that he was two thousand years ago.

The Crania AEgyptiaca prove, as Morton justly observes, and has placed on the title-page of his catalogue of skulls, that ‘the physical or organic characters which distinguish the several races of men, are as old as the earliest records of our species.’

A radical reformation is greatly needed in our system of medical education, which is so defective as to lead to the fatal error in practice, that there are no physical or organic characters in the negro’s organization different from that of the white man. A blundering practice in ignorance of the negro’s anatomy and physiology is not the only evil of this defective system of education. The peculiar phenomena indicating debasement of mind, springing from this difference in organization, are attributed by the profanum vulgus of the North to the effects of the Southern slavery. But it could easily be shown, by anatomy, physiology and ethnographical investigations, that the debasement of mind supposed to arise from Southern slavery, arises from causes imprinted by the hand of Nature on the sons of Ham, so far back as the time when the catacombs of Egypt were constructed. The vulgar error that there is no difference in the negro’s organization, physiology and psycology (sic), and that all the apparent difference arises from Southern slavery, is the cause of all of those political agitations which are threatening to dissolve our Union. The knowledge to correct this most mischievous error, which has already split nearly every protestant denomination of Christians in the United States, is to be found by cultivating comparative anatomy, physiology, history and ethnography.

June 20th, 1831.







By THOMAS AFFLECK, Esq., of Washington, Miss.

Link to biography.

[The following interesting communication, from an unprofessional gentleman of fine talents and extensive experience, was kindly furnished us in reply to some interrogatories we addressed to him last winter. Mr. Affleck is one of the most scientific agriculturists to be found in the Southern States, and is well known in this region as the author of the Southern Rural Almanac, a work abounding in useful information relative to planting, gardening, botany, soils, climate, etc. At present, we believe, his attention is devoted particularly to Horticulture, but he has been an extensive planter for a number of years. His efforts to introduce more system and order in the management of plantation affairs, by means of the ' Plantation Record,' a blank book which he has admirably arranged for the purpose, are worthy of all praise. Nothing can be better calculated than the faithful keeping of such a record, to add a charm to that homely primeval employment, (tilling the ground,) which is by far the most important pursuit in this great and growing republic. This paper, in connection with that of Dr. Cartwright, is but the beginning of a series, to appear from year to year, which, we trust, will promote the true interest of the master, and ameliorate the condition of the slave. We commend Mr. Affleck's paper to the careful perusal of our readers, both North and South.—Ed.]

Dr. E. D. Fenner, Editor Medical Reports


My dear Sir:—In reply to your inquiries relative to the health and management of negroes, and the sanitary condition of cotton plantations, I would remark, that my observations have been confined, more particularly, to the hill country embraced in this and the counties immediately adjoining; that they extend through a series of over nine years; and that my replies will be limited to the condition of things in the district referred to.

The face of the country is much broken; not, as is generally the case in hill regions, divided into valley and hill; but is sharply rolling, the tops of the hills representing the general surface, as it were—the hollows being depressions, forming a very peculiar character of country. Some few creeks and streams of water occur, but even their valleys are of limited extent.

The soil was, originally, very rich; but where the timber has been destroyed and the land tilled, the soil has been, in a great measure, washed off; accumulating in the hollows; raising the level of the creek bottoms; and adding to the formation at the Balize.

The general growth of timber in this country was originally oak in some eight or ten of the noblest species, elm, hickory, poplar, (Liriodendron tulipifera,) mulberry, magnolia, (M. grandiflora, accuminata, cordata, and macrophylla), ash, linden, black walnut, sweet and black gums, sassafras, etc. In the low grounds, cypress, sycamore, etc. In some parts of the country there are scattering pines, occasionally running into pine-woods. In others the beach, and again the magnolia preponderates, intermingled with the holly and wild peach.

In some parts of the county springs of the most limpid water abound; forming spring-branches, as they are termed; and emptying their waters, principally into St. Catherine’s and Second creeks. These springs break out of beds of fine silicious sand or gravel, and occasionally from the beds of marl, which abound in many parts of the county.

The country having been long settled, the land is very much exhausted; not a few plantations on the verge of abandonment for the rich lands of the Louisiana swamps, where more cotton may be made, though with less clear profit in the end, and with a vast amount of suffering and toil to white and black. The number of negroes in the county has greatly diminished, I suspect, during the last ten years, from the removal of numbers to other districts.

With these preliminary remarks, I will proceed to reply to your inquiries in detail.

1st. ‘What is the customary method of feeding, clothing, housing and working negroes ?’

Their food is cooked for them by one appointed for the purpose, and directly responsible to the master or overseer. They have as much well-cooked food as they can consume ; the general allowance of meat being 3| to 4 pounds per week, of sound mess pork, or its equivalent in bacon, to each working hand over, say, 10 years ; with bread, homminy, vegetables, etc., ad libitum. Some few, to their shame be it said, do not feed so well; but they form the exception, and are themselves greatly the losers thereby. Fish and molasses are given occasionally. Not nearly enough of vegetables are grown and fed to negroes. Each negro has his small tin bucket, with a cover, in which each meal is sent out by an old man and cart; breakfast at 7 to 8 o’clock, dinner at 1 to 2, and supper when they drop work. The buckets are washed after each meal. Water is either hauled out

in a barrel on a sled, or got from springs, etc., and is carried about amongst the hands at work as wanted, by youngsters.

Clothing consists of, for winter, a roundabout or loose coat, a pair of trowsers of strong woolen jeans, and two shirts of stout lowells, for the men ; and for the women, a frock of warm linsey, and two chemises of lowells; our winter being short, their last year’s suit is seldom nearly worn out; and youngsters who are very hard on their clothes get additional trowsers, etc., when necessary. One pair of strong russet brogans, and a hat or cap of some kind. One year, a warm capote of twilled blanket; and the next a bed-blanket for every negro, even to the infants. Some make comforts* for their people occasionally. The children, too, have comfortable clothing.

Housing is almost always good. Each family has a room from sixteen to twenty feet square, many with an additional shed-room, and all with galleries and porches. The houses are of brick, frame or log, some of pise. Frame or log, generally, considered most conducive to health. Each house has its yard, with poultry houses, etc., and some with gardens.

The working is quite uniform. At day-break the bell rings or horn blows, and all hands turn out; the mothers carrying their children to the nursery, and all proceeding to their work, so as to commence by sun-up. During the winter, from half to three quarters of an hour is allowed for each meal; during summer, half an hour for breakfast, and from one and a half to two hours for dinner. All hands quit at dusk. Some planters do not drop soon enough, nor arrange their work with that system, to admit of their hands being ready for bed at a sufficiently early hour ; but they form the exception.

2d. ‘What are the principal diseases from which negroes suffer in your region ? and which are the sickliest seasons of the year ?’

During winter, principally pneumonia, occurring in wet and cold weather, and greatly aggravated by the unskillful (sic) treatment of overseers ; warded off by dry, well-aired houses, warm and sufficient clothing and food, and an avoidance of exposure to

* A quilted coverlid.

wet, which the negro cannot be exposed to with impunity. In spring, few diseases ; none, if dry; if wet, apt to be sickly— pneumonia, and intermittent fever; rarely subject to those bilious attacks to which the whites are liable at this season. Summer usually very healthy; some bilious fevers in June; but when fodder-pulling begins, negroes become sickly, being decidedly the most injurious work to their health that is done upon plantation, from their exposure to heavy dews, over-heating amidst the tall corn, and when reaching the end of the row, drinking large quantities of water. In the fall, violent congestive fevers are occasionally produced during cotton-picking, when cold nights set in, accompanied by hot days. This is greatly lessened by the practice, now generally adopted, of requiring them to change their wet clothes lor dry, so soon as the dew passes off. When the cotton-leaves fall, sickness lessens. Upon the whole, I have never seen an equally healthy region, for white or black; and my observation has been somewhat extensive. Cold and wet winters the most dangerous sickly seasons ; diseases of no kind prevailing during dry seasons, or warm and dry summers.

The principal causes of sickness upon plantations, are the use of spring, well, creek or bayou water,—(it is a fixed fact, that cistern or rain water alone is healthy; instances being quite common, where places notoriously sickly, though supplied with abundance of pure, clear and cool spring water, becoming at once equally healthy from the exclusive use of that from underground cisterns: there should be large cisterns, not only at the house and quarter, but at the gin-house and weather-shed in the fields) —night work and night rambles, coon hunting, etc. There is nothing gained by fagging the hands with corn-shelling, carrying seed cotton into the gin, etc., after night. They should drop all work in time to have a couple of hours before the bell rings for bed, and for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep ; and should have Saturday afternoon, whenever work is not unusually pressing, for washing, house-cleaning, tending their crops, etc., the overseer making it his business to see that they are so employed. Badly-cooked food, wherever permitted, an insufficiency of vegetables, and a want of cleanliness, are all causes of sickness. Much injury is frequently occasioned by the hands carrying their baskets full of cotton, during picking, for any great distance, on their heads. A load of 100 to 150 pounds pressing upon the skull, neck and back-bone, when the muscles are relaxed by fatigue, cannot but be injurious, and is a decided cause of sickness and accidents, such as sprains, ruptures, etc. In every instance, additional care in food, clothing, and household comforts; a ready supply of fuel in cold weather; an avoidance of exposure to rain and night air and dews; strict discipline; reasonable hours and moderate punishments, are followed by a corresponding degree of health and strength, and increase in the numbers of negroes.

3. ‘Are the whites and blacks equally liable to the customary prevailing diseases?’

Negroes have diseases peculiar to themselves; and even in the same diseases, the symptoms, etc., are different, and the treatment must also be very different. I think them equally liable, under the same circumstances of food, exposure, etc.

4. ‘What influence does acclimation appear to have upon negroes brought from the more northern States?’

The first year, no marked influence ; the second summer, extremely liable to dangerous attacks; after that, the acclimation seems to be complete.

5. ‘What is the comparative duration of life among whites and blacks, Creoles and immigrants?’

Cannot well say; the negro outlives the white or the mulatto. I am inclined to think that, after acclimation, the more active out-of-door habits of the white immigrant, is conducive to health and duration of life.

6. ‘What seem to be the principal causes of disease among negroes, in respect to food, clothing, exposure, filth, water, drink, etc. ?’

Already answered, in a great measure.

7. ‘Are negro women, under the ordinary regime of plantations, as prolific as white?’

Yes: more so, when not over-worked. As a general thing, decidedly so.

8. ‘ What is the ordinary management of negro children ? and what the comparative mortality between whites and blacks?’

Upon every plantation working, say, twenty hands or more, there is a nursery, with a careful old woman, whose business it is to take care of them, wash them, cook for them, etc. Every mother carries her cradle, blankets, mosquito-bar and child to the nursery, before she goes out in the morning, after suckling. Whilst under nine months, the aim is to have the child suckled every three and a half to four hours, the mother coming in for the purpose ; and this rule is rarely exceeded. Where the distance is great, say over three or four hundred yards, good managers have a large, dry, airy shed in the field where the hands are at work, and there the children, cradles and all, are taken by the nurse, in a cart, or otherwise, so soon as the dew is oft’—an excellent practice. The mortality of negro children is as two to one when compared with the whites, depending solely upon locality and care. Quarters are often badly located; children allowed to be filthy; are suckled hurriedly, whilst the mother is over-heated; are laid on their backs when mere infants, on a hard mattrass (sic), or a blanket only, and rocked and bumped in badly-made cradles; not a few are over-laid by the wearied mother, who sleeps so dead a sleep as not to be aware of the injury to her infant; a vast proportion die under nine or ten days, from the most unskillful (sic) management of negro mid wives, who do not know how to take care of the navel, and dose the infant with nasty nostrums from the moment of its birth; from having access to green fruit, eating acorns, etc., and from dirt eating. Of those born, one half die under one year; of the other half, say one-tenth die under five years; and of the remainder, a large proportion are raised. Dirt-eating is frequent amongst young negroes, and always kills them, if not cured. The constant use of molasses is said to induce it, but I cannot say how correctly. Those under the best care are liable to it. Seems to be occasioned by a morbid state of the stomach, and should be so treated. One dirt-cater upon a plantation, will infect the whole. Mostly infected at from two to ten years, Say one child in forty eats dirt. Children should have no sweet milk; none but sour, or buttermilk. They are very liable to worms, which kill a good many, or stunt them: cured by giving every child a spoonful or two of a strong, sweetened decoction or tea of the root of the China tree (melia azederach), every other morning, till five or six doses are taken.

9. ‘ What is the customary medical attention devoted to sick negroes; and what care extended to the disabled and worthless?’

As a general thing, there is not sufficient good medical attention on plantations. Too much is left to the overseer, who doses after a routine — an emetic followed by calomel and oil. There are exceptions, of course. The disabled and worthless slaves are better cared for than the same class in any other community on earth.

10. ‘What seems to be the state of feeling between master and slaves in good families and well-governed plantations?’

Invariably good, upon well-governed plantations. I am not aware of a difficulty of any kind having occurred in this county, since I have resided in it, between the negro and his master or master’s family. Occasionally difficulties do occur between the negroes and their overseer: almost invariably I he fault of the master, in trusting too much to the overseer, and too lax discipline.

In bringing these hurried replies to a close, I must remark, that it would require an octavo volume of large size to contain anything like full answers to your questions. I have done the best I could with the leisure at my command.

It is extremely difficult to arrive at correct sanitary and statistical results, anywhere in the South, from the want of correctly kept plantation records. Planters are not by any means fully advised of the importance of such records; nor are they sufficiently stringent in requiring them to be kept by their overseers, on those plantations on which they do not themselves reside; nor in keeping them regularly and correctly where they do not require it of the overseer. A uniform system of plantation records would direct the attention of the community to the most prevalent evils, and to the best practices, alike; so that the one would be avoided, and the other generally adopted.

Yours, very truly,


Washington, Adams Co., Miss., 19th May, 1851.






The following is the introduction to the above journal.  The content of the text is indicative of the philosophy for southern medical practitioners in general.  The article details these cultural attitudes in significant detail. 

In some ways, it is possible for someone to prove anything with history.  This takes place often when major classical writings are references.  In the Bible for example, it is possible to argue to and fro for a claim if you cite the quotations correctly.  (A Compendium of Bible Quotes I own allows you to look up the key word, and choose either for or against that item.)  The Southern Medical doctors engage in this cultural argument quite well, laying claim to some of the most classic medical writers in order to prove their racial superiority claim.  These arguments are what ultimately led to the establishment of the very popular Aryan Race/White Supremancy movement during the 1870s.  (Those terms were even in use by this time.)















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