The art of midwifery has gained a strong hold in the minds and lives of families in their childbearing years. This is especially true as more people are leaning towards living a more natural way of life. However, due to midwifery becoming a more modern topic, it has nearly pushed the legacy of black midwives totally out of view. Many do not know that the art of midwifery owes much of its affluence to black midwives. Midwifery was primarily a tradition amongst black women.
Black lay midwives have played an important part in the health of the black family. They have been an important aspect especially during the times of slavery. This was due to the fact that they had deep knowledge of herbal medicine and home remedies. They also used their knowledge of working with energy also known as root work. More importantly, however was the midwives also had knowledge of prenatal care as well as how to help mothers in labor and delivery. Many times there was not a doctor who was available or would even come to assist a slave woman during pregnancy. The midwives would assist in as many ways as they could to provide care to the mothers with the resources they had. When it came time to give birth the midwives assisted the mother through the birthing process and caught the baby. Let us not forget that these midwives were slaves and performed such intricate care while under the severe conditions of slavery themselves. Midwives not only provided care for fellow slaves, but also provided prenatal care and midwifery services to their slave master’s wives. This type of care, the midwives provided even went on after slavery was said to end.
Some of the midwives were referred to as granny midwives. This was due to the fact that most of the practicing midwives were elder women. Midwives were also called doctors, and hands on healers. Some even assisted in the death process. Sadly, the practice of the southern midwives began to dwindle to non-existence when licensing practices came into the picture.