Black Women Battling Cancer and Racism

  • Policing Black Bodies in Virginia

    Policing Black Bodies in Virginia
    Virginia colonial legislatures first create laws regarding Black bodies and reproduction with the passing of a law declaring that the legal status of the mother (i.e.: enslaved) would be the legal status of the child they bear. This law establishes the legal foundation of the lack of bodily autonomy for enslaved Africans.
    "Learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength." -Lorde, 13
  • Death of Phillis Wheatley

    Death of Phillis Wheatley
    Phillis Wheatley, America’s first Black female poet to gain international renown, dies impoverished and alone in childbirth. Wheatley, enslaved as a young girl, probably caught tuberculosis on the ship that brought her to American soil.
  • Medicalization of Black Childbirth

    Medicalization of Black Childbirth
    Congress votes to end US participation in the transatlantic slave trade by 1808, spurring “medicalization of childbirth”: physicians and slaveholders experimenting on slave women to increase childbirth only to increase the number of plantation workers.
  • Dr. Ephraim McDowell Performs Forced Abdominal Operations

    Dr. Ephraim McDowell Performs Forced Abdominal Operations
    Dr. Ephraim McDowell, “the father of abdominal surgery,” perfects his methods on the bodies of four enslaved women, all of whom are operated with the consent of only their enslavers and without the benefit of any anesthetic to speak of.
  • Dr. Henry Dowling Performs Unethical Autopsy

    Dr. Henry Dowling Performs Unethical Autopsy
    Representative of anatomical study, which was largely relegated to the use of Black bodies, Dr. Henry Dowling, performs an autopsy on a 12-year-old enslaved girl having obtained “permission” from the girl’s owner. Autopsies were illegal in most states without the consent of the family.
  • Birth of Mildred Graves

    Graves went on to become a renowned midwife, so much so that even white women allowed her to help in troubled or dangerous births. Graves was part of a tradition of “relational visions of health” that found enslaved women creating and sharing medical knowledge between themselves to assist in physical and mental healing.
    "The only really happy people I have ever met are those of us who work against these deaths with all the energy of our living.” -Lorde, 67
  • Torture in the Name of Modern Gynecology

    Torture in the Name of Modern Gynecology
    Dr. James Marion Sims, the founder of modern gynecology, performs what amounts to torture on at least three enslaved women: Lucy, Betsey, and Anarcha. The three women were operated on without anesthesia and only with the permission of their enslavers.
  • "Perfecting" the C-Section

    From 1822 to 1861, Francois Marie Prevost used the bodies of at least fifteen enslaved women to perfect the cesarean birth procedure. Like Sims, he often performs his procedures in front of an audience, keeping Black bodies on display for the benefit of white learning.
  • Henrietta Lacks' Stolen Cells

    Henrietta Lacks' Stolen Cells
    Henrietta Lacks has her biopsied cancer cells kept for study without her knowledge or consent. The use of these cells in subsequent study has led to a greater understanding of cancer, as well as the development of vaccines, research, and medical advancement. These cells have been reproduced for study to this day. [The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks(]
  • Tufts-Delta Health Center Established

    Tufts-Delta Health Center Established
    In Mound Bayou, Mississippi, an all-Black town, The Tufts-Delta Health Center is established with the goal of community outreach and medical access for a community that was rightly skeptical of doctors and medical science. This health center helps families gain access to needed medical care as well as clean water, food, and other necessities, improving quality of life for the community.
  • Improved Access to Medical Treatment

    Improved Access to Medical Treatment
    The Black Panther Party begins requiring all local chapters to open clinics near their offices in order to improve access to medical treatment for their communities. The clinics provided mothers' and children’s health checkups, sickle-cell screening, and gynecological services for underserved communities and worked in tandem with other programs provided by the Black Panthers, such as free breakfast programs for children and community activism.
  • Praise is The Cure

    Praise is The Cure
    Praise Is The Cure® has been committed to eliminating Breast Cancer disparities among Black women in Philadelphia and surrounding counties by providing breast health education, access to breast screenings and treatment, and other support services for breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families.
  • "400 Years of Inequality"

    "400 Years of Inequality"
    A study published in 2016 showed the majority of medical students believed Black individuals do not feel pain the same way white people do, influencing how doctors view and treat Black bodies and respond to Black pain. Women of color are still experiencing being othered in the medical community, just as Lorde recalls in her own life.
    "The first step is that women with mastectomies must become visible to each other. For silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness.” -Lorde, 54
  • Overhauling the Referral Process for Underserved Women

    Overhauling the Referral Process for Underserved Women
    Lola Fayanju, MD, explains breast cancer risk assessment tools, why they might not accurately predict risk for Black women and women of color, and how women can develop a screening plan with their doctors. Her research found that women treated by safety-net primary care doctors in the greater St. Louis area were more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced-stage breast cancer than women who had private insurance.
  • Michelle Browder Honors the "Mothers of Gynecology"

    Michelle Browder Honors the "Mothers of Gynecology"
    Michelle Browder plans to open a museum and health clinic where Dr. Sims performed his tortuous experiments on enslaved women in the name of gynecology, allowing their pain to be spoken and their names to be reclaimed in the spirit of health and wellness.
    "It means, for me... knowing that this work did not begin with my birth nor will it end with my death." - Lorde, 10
  • Woman Black by Chika Stacy

    Woman Black by Chika Stacy
    [Woman, Black, Spoken Word Poetry by Chika Stacy(]