Virtual Speaker Series - African American Contributions to Medicine in 18th-Century Colonial America

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - 7:00am - 8:00am
United States

Carolyn Roberts: "African American Contributions to Medicine in 18th-Century Colonial America"

In 1716, an enslaved West African man named Onesimus exhibited mild smallpox scarring, compared to others who had contracted the variola disease.  When questioned about it, Onesimus made a surprising remark to Puritan minister Cotton Mather: he knew how to prevent the most severe effects of smallpox.  Onesimus introduced the process of inoculation to the Americas.  This story raises the question: what kinds of medical and botanical knowledge did African and African-descended people possess in the Americas, and how did they contribute to early modern science?

In this talk, Roberts explores the history of African-descended medical knowledge in greater Atlantic world, and its function as a form of resistance in the early modern Americas.  The 1793 outbreak of yellow fever also serves as an illuminating case study for emergent ideas about race and disease—and its life and death consequences.

Event Type: 
Guest Speaker
Event Type: 
Educational Events