In 1849, Louisiana State Medical Convention chose Southern physician and pro-#slavery advocate Samuel Cartwright to chair a committee; the tasks of Dr. Cartwright would be to investigate and report on the different unique diseases of African Americans. Cartwright examined and study many blacks and reported in 1851 at an annual meeting some of his findings.
In Dr. Cartwrights report, “Diseases and Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race,” he claimed that blacks were very different physiologically from whites. Supposedly, #black people had smaller brains and sensitive skin, and overdeveloped nervous systems. For these reasons black people had a high propensity for servitude. Dr. Cartwright argued that “the Negro is a slave by nature and can never be happy – in any other condition.” He invented the term #Drapetomania, derived from the Greek words for “runaway slave” and “crazy,” to describe a curable mental disease. When slaves were infected with ‘drapetomania’ they had the urge to flee bondage and seek freedom.
If a slave becomes “sulky and dissatisfied without reason,” then they may have drapetomania and be about to flee. Cartwright recommended “whipping the devil out of them.
Cartwright found that the trigger of this horrible disease was from masters who treated their slaves as human beings and equals. But, all was not lost if a slave got the disease; there was a cure. The cure for ‘drapetomania’ was severe whippings and amputation of the toes. The master was to do this until the slave became submissive again.
The best means to stimulate the skin is, first, to have the patient well-washed with warm water and soap; then, anoint it all over in oil, and slap the oil in with a broad leather strap; then put the patient to hard work in the sunshine.”
Listen to Dr. Bankole-Medina speak more about Dr. Cartwright and drapetomania below.
YouTube video credit: Dr. Bankole-Medina