A History of Anti-Black Racism in Medicine

Endorsed by OAH Committee on the Status of ALANA Historians and ALANA Histories

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: African American; Medical History; Science and Technology; Social Welfare and Public Health


In 2020, Black Perspectives (African American Intellectual History Society) published a public syllabus for teaching the history of anti-Black racism in medicine to provide further context for the racial disparities in healthcare revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Using the syllabus as a launching pad, this panel—which includes its authors—explores the legacy of anti-Blackness in American medicine. Grounded in historical inquiry, the conversation will connect the past and present to facilitate an in-depth analysis of the current challenges facing Black Americans in the healthcare system. The panelists will also be invited to discuss where scholarship on the histories of medicine and science should explore further to fill in the gaps in research.

Session Participants

Chair: Kim T. Gallon
Kim Gallon is an Associate Professor of History at Purdue University. Her work investigates the cultural dimensions of the Black Press in the early twentieth century and the relationship between technology and health equity. She's the author of Pleasure in the News: African American Readership and Sexuality in the Black Press (University of Illinois Press, 2020). Gallon is also the author of the field-defining article, "Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities" and the founder and director of two black digital humanities projects: The Black Press Research Collective and COVID Black She also serves on several digital advisory boards for digital humanities projects and grants.

Panelist: Antoine Johnson
Antoine Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate at UC San Francisco. His research interests include the history of race and medicine, African American history, and hip-hop studies. His dissertation examines Black AIDS activism in the Bay Area and ways in which structural and medical racism increased African Americans' vulnerability to infection. 

Panelist: Elise A. Mitchell, Princeton University
Elise A. Mitchell is currently a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Princeton University. Her research focuses on slavery and the history of the body in the early modern Atlantic World. She completed her M.Phil. and Ph.D. in History at New York University and earned her B.A. in History at the University of Pennsylvania. The Ford Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Huntington Library, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies have supported her research in archives in the U.S., the U.K., Portugal, Spain, France, Barbados, Jamaica, and Colombia. Her recent publications include essays in the edited volume Medicine and Healing in the Age of Slavery (LSU Press), Black Perspectives, and The Atlantic: Ideas. Her articles will appear in The William and Mary Quarterly, The Journal of the Early Republic, and The Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies in 2022 and early 2023. She is currently working on a book and digital history project about enslaved Africans who endured smallpox epidemics and the slave trade to Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British territories in the Caribbean region.

Panelist: Ayah Nuriddin, Johns Hopkins University
Ayah Nuriddin is a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows and Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and African American Studies at Princeton University. She received her PhD in the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in 2021. Her dissertation, entitled “Liberation Eugenics: African Americans and the Science of Black Freedom Struggles, 1890-1970,” analyzes African American engagement with eugenics, hereditarian thought, and racial science as part of a broader strategy of racial improvement and black liberation. She holds a Masters in History and Masters of Library Science (MLS) from the University of Maryland, College Park. She was a Graduate Fellow in the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine in 2017-2018, and a Dissertation Fellow at the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (CHSTM) in 2018-2019. Her work has been published in the Historical Studies of Natural Science, Journal for the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, the Lancet, Nursing Clio, and Somatosphere, and she has appeared on the Disability History Association podcast and American History TV on C-Span.

Panelist: Ezelle Sanford III, Carnegie Mellon University
Ezelle Sanford III earned a Ph.D. in History and History of Science from Princeton University. He.is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University where he specializes in the history of modern medicine and public health, African American history, and twentieth-century United States history. He is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University where he works with the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project. Before joining the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University, Sanford served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Program on Race, Science, and Society (PRSS) at the University of Pennsylvania. There he helped to establish the "Penn Medicine and the Afterlives of Slavery Project."  Sanford has appeared on public-facing media as a historical expert including the award-winning documentary, The Color of Medicine. His writing has been featured in academic and public outlets including National Geographic. Sanford is an alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis where he earned cum laude honors.