Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction

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9780199758722: Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction

Bondspeople who fled from slavery during and after the Civil War did not expect that their flight toward freedom would lead to sickness, disease, suffering, and death. But the war produced the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century, and as historian Jim Downs reveals in this groundbreaking volume, it had deadly consequences for hundreds of thousands of freed people.

In Sick from Freedom, Downs recovers the untold story of one of the bitterest ironies in American history--that the emancipation of the slaves, seen as one of the great turning points in U.S. history, had devastating consequences for innumerable freed people. Drawing on massive new research into the records of the Medical Division of the Freedmen's Bureau-a nascent national health system that cared for more than one million freed slaves-he shows how the collapse of the plantation economy released a plague of lethal diseases. With emancipation, African Americans seized the chance to move, migrating as never before. But in their journey to freedom, they also encountered yellow fever, smallpox, cholera, dysentery, malnutrition, and exposure. To address this crisis, the Medical Division hired more than 120 physicians, establishing some forty underfinanced and understaffed hospitals scattered throughout the South, largely in response to medical emergencies. Downs shows that the goal of the Medical Division was to promote a healthy workforce, an aim which often excluded a wide range of freedpeople, including women, the elderly, the physically disabled, and children. Downs concludes by tracing how the Reconstruction policy was then implemented in the American West, where it was disastrously applied to Native Americans.

The widespread medical calamity sparked by emancipation is an overlooked episode of the Civil War and its aftermath, poignantly revealed in Sick from Freedom.

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About the Author:


Jim Downs is Associate Professor of History and American Studies at Connecticut College. He is the editor of Taking Back the Academy: History of Activism, History as Activism and Why We Write: The Politics and Practice of Writing for Social Change.

Review:


"An important challenge to our understanding of an event that scholars and laypeople alike have preferred to see as an uplifting story of newly liberated people vigorously claiming their long-denied rights." - The New York Times

"Downs has written a scholarly book about emancipation that should open a whole new discussion about how it was achieved. If there is any doubt about his assertions, he has included 56 pages of footnotes." --  The Washington Post

"Jim Downs' exceptional research has resulted in a major study ... Highly recommended." -- Civil War News


"As Jim Downs makes clear in this carefully documented work, the Union leadership, domestic and military, was wholly unprepared to deal with the breakdown of the system of slavery that followed the Union army with every foray into southern soil. ... However one may 'spin' the story, one comes away from this book with no doubt that the path out of slavery was a minefield of death and disease that needs its proper acknowledgment in histories of reconstruction." -- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences


"James Downs' Sick from Freedom is a signal contribution to the vastly understudied question of freedpeople's health and a formidable challenge to the dominant analytical framework that has heretofore framed our understanding both of the transition from slavery to freedom in the American South and the meaning of death and dying in the era of the Civil War. It, quite simply, remaps a field. Against an archival record of statistics--of so many bodies sick or dying and denied access to local and state hospitals and asylums--Downs gives us the story of a people, of individual men, women and children 'dying to be free.'" -- Thavolia Glymph, Duke University

"A fresh and ambitious account of the Civil War era that not only interrogates the transition from slavery to freedom in new and unsettling ways but also invites us to rethink the geographical dimensions of Reconstruction." --Steven Hahn, University of Pennsylvania

"Jim Downs's Sick from Freedom charts new, darker, and profoundly revealing paths into the history of the American emancipation in the Civil War. In a work of medical, social, labor, and military history all at once, Downs shows that achieving freedom for American slaves was a signal triumph, but only through a horrible passage of disease, suffering and death. A 'new' history of emancipation is emerging, and Downs is one of its most talented and innovative craftsmen. This book demonstrates that emancipation is real history and not mere sentimental celebration." --David W. Blight, author of American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era

"In Sick from Freedom, Jim Downs paints a startling and little known portrait of African American emancipation in which struggles for health and survival must be factored alongside the political and economic history of the period." --Sharla Fett, Occidental College


" Sick from Freedom by Jim Downs traces a shrouded chapter of American history: the mass death and medical devastation that visited African Americans in the immediate wake of legal emancipation. Downs compellingly reveals how the confluence of racial slander, government indifference, and medical malign neglect proved widely fatal, and in doing so he paints a detailed and disheartening portrait of man's inhumanity to man." --Harriet Washington, author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2012. Hardback. Book Condition: New. 236 x 160 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Bondspeople who fled from slavery during and after the Civil War did not expect that their flight toward freedom would lead to sickness, disease, suffering, and death. But the war produced the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century, and as historian Jim Downs reveals in this groundbreaking volume, it had deadly consequences for hundreds of thousands of freed people. In Sick from Freedom, Downs recovers the untold story of one of the bitterest ironies in American history-that the emancipation of the slaves, seen as one of the great turning points in U.S. history, had devastating consequences for innumerable freedpeople. Drawing on massive new research into the records of the Medical Division of the Freedmen s Bureau-a nascent national health system that cared for more than 500,000 freed slaves-he shows how the collapse of the plantation economy released a plague of lethal diseases. With emancipation, African Americans seized the chance to move, migrating as never before. But in their journey to freedom, they also encountered yellow fever, smallpox, cholera, dysentery, malnutrition, and exposure. To address this crisis, the Medical Division hired more than 120 physicians, establishing some forty underfinanced and understaffed hospitals scattered throughout the South, largely in response to medical emergencies. Downs shows that the goal of the Medical Division was to promote a healthy workforce, an aim which often excluded a wide range of freedpeople, including women, the elderly, the physically disabled, and children. Downs concludes by tracing how the Reconstruction policy was then implemented in the American West, where it was disastrously applied to Native Americans. The widespread medical calamity sparked by emancipation is an overlooked episode of the Civil War and its aftermath, poignantly revealed in Sick from Freedom. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780199758722

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2012. Hardback. Book Condition: New. 236 x 160 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Bondspeople who fled from slavery during and after the Civil War did not expect that their flight toward freedom would lead to sickness, disease, suffering, and death. But the war produced the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century, and as historian Jim Downs reveals in this groundbreaking volume, it had deadly consequences for hundreds of thousands of freed people. In Sick from Freedom, Downs recovers the untold story of one of the bitterest ironies in American history-that the emancipation of the slaves, seen as one of the great turning points in U.S. history, had devastating consequences for innumerable freedpeople. Drawing on massive new research into the records of the Medical Division of the Freedmen s Bureau-a nascent national health system that cared for more than 500,000 freed slaves-he shows how the collapse of the plantation economy released a plague of lethal diseases. With emancipation, African Americans seized the chance to move, migrating as never before. But in their journey to freedom, they also encountered yellow fever, smallpox, cholera, dysentery, malnutrition, and exposure. To address this crisis, the Medical Division hired more than 120 physicians, establishing some forty underfinanced and understaffed hospitals scattered throughout the South, largely in response to medical emergencies. Downs shows that the goal of the Medical Division was to promote a healthy workforce, an aim which often excluded a wide range of freedpeople, including women, the elderly, the physically disabled, and children. Downs concludes by tracing how the Reconstruction policy was then implemented in the American West, where it was disastrously applied to Native Americans. The widespread medical calamity sparked by emancipation is an overlooked episode of the Civil War and its aftermath, poignantly revealed in Sick from Freedom. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780199758722

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc. Hardback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Jim Downs, Bondspeople who fled from slavery during and after the Civil War did not expect that their flight toward freedom would lead to sickness, disease, suffering, and death. But the war produced the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century, and as historian Jim Downs reveals in this groundbreaking volume, it had deadly consequences for hundreds of thousands of freed people. In Sick from Freedom, Downs recovers the untold story of one of the bitterest ironies in American history-that the emancipation of the slaves, seen as one of the great turning points in U.S. history, had devastating consequences for innumerable freedpeople. Drawing on massive new research into the records of the Medical Division of the Freedmen's Bureau-a nascent national health system that cared for more than 500,000 freed slaves-he shows how the collapse of the plantation economy released a plague of lethal diseases. With emancipation, African Americans seized the chance to move, migrating as never before. But in their journey to freedom, they also encountered yellow fever, smallpox, cholera, dysentery, malnutrition, and exposure. To address this crisis, the Medical Division hired more than 120 physicians, establishing some forty underfinanced and understaffed hospitals scattered throughout the South, largely in response to medical emergencies. Downs shows that the goal of the Medical Division was to promote a healthy workforce, an aim which often excluded a wide range of freedpeople, including women, the elderly, the physically disabled, and children. Downs concludes by tracing how the Reconstruction policy was then implemented in the American West, where it was disastrously applied to Native Americans. The widespread medical calamity sparked by emancipation is an overlooked episode of the Civil War and its aftermath, poignantly revealed in Sick from Freedom. Bookseller Inventory # B9780199758722

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