Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South


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Ebrary eBook. Agrarian discontent and political dissent in the South, -- Building the Southern farmer and labor movements, -- The Knights of Labor and Southern farmer-labor insurgency, -- Toward a third party in the South and nation, -- Southern labor and Southern populism, -- Southern farmer and labor movements after the populist defeat of Knights of Labor. Labor unions Political activity Southern States History 19th century.

Working class Political activity Southern States History 19th century. Farmers Political activity Southern States History 19th century. Populism Southern States History 19th century. Labor unions Southern States Political activity History 19th century. Working class Southern States Political activity History 19th century. Farmers Southern States Political activity History 19th century. Labor unions Southern States History 19th century. Southern States Race relations History 19th century.

Southern States. Related item. Other format: ; ISBN: Electronic books. Internet Resources. Summary Matthew Hild shows that the Populist or People's Party, the most important third party of the s, established itself most solidly in Texas, Alabama, and under the guise of the earlier Union Labor Party in Arkansas, where farmer-labour political coalitions from the s to mids had laid the groundwork for populism's expansion.

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University of Bradford. British Library. University of Cambridge Libraries. Cardiff Metropolitan University. University of Huddersfield Library. For these reasons, it seems likely that people buried in the cemetery were slaves of the Eaton family, and thus represent the sector of 19th century North Carolina society of interest to the research question. Disease environment for African Americans in the antebellum South - Infectious disease was a prominent part of life and a significant cause of death for all people in the XIX Century South.

These disease categories account for Leading causes of death among the slave population of Virginia for including the latter part of are similar: respiratory diseases It should be noted that these values differ little from those recorded for the white population of Virginia that year, although the order of disease prevalence differs slightly and diseases such as cholera that swept through the region four times between and were particularly devastating for slave and free black populations Savitt On the other hand, diseases such as malaria and yellow fever that were particularly troublesome in the warm, humid conditions of the Southeast do not appear to have impacted people of African descent as severely as those of European descent, a fact widely noted by physicians of the time Savitt , , Patterson Nutritional deficiency diseases such as rickets, scurvy, pellagra, and iron deficiency anemia are thought to have been common among blacks and poor whites, but are listed as only minor causes of death in the census records Patterson The question therefore arises of whether the disease experience was really different for enslaved blacks and whites in the antebellum South.

Emerging data suggest that it was, particularly for infants and children. Opinion has varied widely concerning the health of slaves relative to that of the general population. Some have argued that slave health and mortality was similar to that of the free population e. Postell Recent research based on mortality rates and stature estimates provides strong support for the latter perspective, particularly for the very young. Using these health measures, noted historian Richard H Steckel [quote] concluded that "[slave] children's health was comparable to that in the poorest populations ever studied, whereas working-age slaves were remarkably well-off These childhood rates were roughly double those of the entire free population in the United States, but the rates of slave and free adults were approximately equal.

Neonatal tetanus Trismus nascentium , transmitted through the umbilical stump as a result of improper handling, was also a common cause of death for these newborns, as was diarrhea, nervous system diseases including neurosyphilis , whooping cough, and respiratory diseases Savitt Health stresses for infants continued unabated as mothers returned to work, necessitating supplemental feeding of infants with less nutritious and frequently contaminated paps and gruels, and early weaning by 9 months to a year.

Average heights of slave children fell below the 0. Health improvements ensued only when children joined the work force and gained access to a worker's rations, although adult stature still remained at the low end of modern standards Steckel These data suggest that the health impacts of slavery were greatest for infants and children, and that these impacts influenced people's health into adulthood. Therefore, it is hypothesized that: a infants and children will show the greatest health stress in the Eaton Ferry Cemetery; and that b health stress will be more apparent in the Eaton Ferry sample than in non-slave samples.

Osteological data were initially recorded by the author in and updated on a recent visit in A detailed inventory was compiled for each skeleton. Metric and other observations were recorded by skeletal element. Although determinations based on metric data are not necessarily definitive, particularly in cases of genetic admixture, they nonetheless provide an independent means of assessing the identity of those buried in the Eaton Ferry Cemetery.

Indices of dental pathology included dental caries, antemortem tooth loss, and enamel hypoplasia. The presence and severity of enamel defects were recorded for each tooth, and teeth were conservatively scored as hypoplastic if defects could be detected by running the fingernail over the tooth surface. Of the nine individuals for whom sex could be determined, five are male and four are female. Preservation varies from poor to excellent, resulting in fewer individuals for some indices than the total sample would indicate.

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Postcranial racial assessment agreed with one male classified as white Burial 3 and one male classified as black Burial Two additional individuals were classified as black based on cranial traits that have been shown to correlate with "racial" group: post-coronal depression and nasal guttering Byers No fillings, bridges, or other indicators of dental treatment are evident in the sample.

The rate of carious teeth for females is Defects are slight-to-moderate in one infant and three year old adults, moderate-to-severe in two other adults in this age range, and extremely severe in another two individuals, aged 7 Burial 12 and 20 Burial 14 Fig. In these individuals, the incisors and first permanent molars are also malformed. Cranial pathology is less common than dental pathology, but affects at least four individuals Table III. The infant with cribra orbitalia also has several additional pathological lesions of the frontal bone that include abnormal porosity, enlarged and abnormal vascular features, and a round, erosive lesion above the left eye orbit Fig.

A fourth infant has superficial porosity over the surface of one scorable orbit that appears periosteal in origin and could be indicative of scurvy Ortner A fifth individual Burial 2 may have healed, gummatous lesions of the cranial vault, but poor preservation makes this assessment extremely problematic.

Sex, sickness, and slavery [print] : illness in the antebellum South in SearchWorks catalog

Three individuals have pathological lesions in the bones of the thorax, and excavation records indicate that a fourth individual did as well. One mature adult male Burial 3 has Schmorl's nodes on TL4. Burial 9, a year-old man, has a large resorptive lesion of the 4th lumbar vertebral body that shows signs of remodeling. Burial 14 has partially remodeled periosteal lesions on the visceral surfaces of one lower right and five left middle ribs in the region of the angle Fig.

The year-old male Burial 14 with the disfiguring enamel defects and rib lesions has remodeled periosteal lesions of the tibiae lateral midshafts and medially bowed fibulae Fig. A fifth individual, Burial 12, may have had a periosteal lesion on the distal shaft of the left humerus, but this observation is based on superficial evidence of slight swelling that may not be pathological. There are also two cases of traumatic injury evident in the sample.

A year-old female has healed, pathological changes to her left acromion that probably resulted from traumatic injury. Burial 9, the male described above, has a fully healed shaft fracture of the left clavicle. The social and economic status of individuals buried in the Eaton Ferry Cemetery provides a starting point for understanding health conditions and risks in the community from which they derive.

Sex, sickness, and slavery : illness in the antebellum South

The analysis of group affiliation Tables I , II strongly supports the argument that most if not all of the individuals buried in the cemetery are of African descent. This seems likely given the rarity of racial mixing in cemeteries of this place and time. The high rate of dental disease observed in the Eaton Ferry Cemetery sample is not surprising, given the emphasis on corn in the southern diet Patterson , and particularly among slaves Savitt Numerous studies of prehistoric Native Americans have documented the cariogenic nature of corn, and one of the major impacts of the transition to maize agriculture in the Americas is a profound increase in rates of dental caries e.

It is interesting that the dentitions of the men are somewhat more diseased than those of the women, because the opposite in generally true in prehistoric agriculturalists e. Perhaps this reflects gender differences in diet, hygiene, or other practices that predispose teeth to cavities, though it may simply be a product of small sample size. A number of osteological studies of XIX century slave and free black cemetery samples e.

Rose , Hutchinson , Owsley et al. Diseases noted in these studies and of particular interest here, given their potential to produce dental defects and other lesions observed in the Eaton Ferry skeletal series, include congenital syphilis Rose , Rathbun , Jacobi et al.

Breeding On Slave Farms

The dental evidence observed in Burials 12 and 14 appears to most closely match the diagnostic criteria for congenital syphilis Hillson et al. Although neither individual exhibits signs of cranial involvement or evidence of osteochondritis, Burial 14 has remodeled periosteal lesions on the midshafts of both tibiae, a common location for these lesions in treponemal disease Steinbock , Ortner If the poorly preserved cranial vault of Burial 2 was in fact affected with gummatous lesions Table III , this would be a third individual affected with venereal syphilis and not surprising in light of the evidence for the congenital form of the disease.

Three individuals appear to have suffered from tuberculosis, which greatly troubled African American communities of the 19th century Rose , Rankin-Hill , Figs 1 , 3c.

Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South

One is Burial 14, the young man with evidence of congenital syphilis. This individual has signs of pulmonary infection in the form of rib lesions on visceral ribs surfaces. In studies of identified skeletons, this type of rib lesion has been found to positively correlate with pulmonary infections, particularly the pulmonary form of tuberculosis see Roberts et al. Burial 9, a mature adult male, has a large resorptive lesion of the 4th lumbar vertebra that is strongly suggestive of skeletal tuberculosis Ortner One or more of the three neonates Burials 7, 11 and 15 with fiberbone lesions on various long bones could have been affected with early stage congenital syphilis, known to cause osteoperiostitis Table IV.

However, these infants could also have been infected with strep, staph, or other bacterial infections known to cause appositional lesions Steinbock , Ortner Given the range of diseases listed as primary causes of death for slave infants Savitt , the possibilities are many. Malnutrition was likely a contributing factor in the poor health and early death of subadults in the Eaton Ferry Cemetery. The 7-year-old child with apparent congenital syphilis is very small 4. Early weaning could have put infants at risk for scurvy and rickets, as may be indicated by porous cranial lesions in the two, year-old infants in the sample Burials 6 and 16, see Ortner et al.

On the other hand, the inward bowing of Burial 14's fibulae, a malformation that can be caused by rickets Ortner , seems unlikely to be so in this case, given the absence of bowing in the tibiae; this bowing may instead be the result of postmortem, taphonomic processes. It is also possible that sickle-cell anemia was a complicating factor in one or more of these individuals. Although this genetic disorder was not recognized or understood in the mid-XIX century, physicians of the time nonetheless noted the resistance of many African Americans to malaria-a resistance conferred almost certainly in part by possession of the sickle-cell trait Savitt In summary, there is evidence for two specific infectious diseases in the Eaton Ferry Cemetery that are known from historic records to have troubled XIX century African Americans: tuberculosis and syphilis.

These and other diseases no doubt contributed to the deaths of seven infants and children, and perhaps also to the childhood growth disruption observed in the teeth of six adults. These high rates of childhood affliction support the hypothesis that infants and children were a particularly vulnerable segment of the enslaved African American population in North Carolina. While the sample is small, the cumulative picture of health stress in the Eaton Ferry sample nonetheless provides compelling evidence for the steep biological costs of slavery, particularly for the youngest of the enslaved.

To the editors for their invitation to participate in this special issue. At UNC-Chapel Hill, RP Steven Davis kindly provided copies of excavation records and facilitated access to the collections and Brett Riggs offered important insights on the dating of artifacts from the site. Elizabeth Cheatham conducted the initial archival research on the cemetery and Eaton family, and Patricia Samford facilitated a later stage of this work and I thank them for their efforts.

Life stresses of the free Black community as represented by the First African Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Am J Phys Anthropol 74 : Frequency and chronological distribution of dental enamel hypoplasia in enslaved African Americans: a test of the weaning hypothesis.

Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South Sex, Sickness, and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South

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