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SU Historian Launches New Book on Slave Medicine

September 12, 2006

SELINSGROVE, (Pa.) – Karol Weaver, assistant professor of history and co-coordinator of the Medical Humanities Initiative at Susquehanna University, will present a reading and discussion of her new book, Medical Revolutionaries: The Enslaved Healers of Eighteenth-Century Saint Domingue, at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 28, in Shearer Dining Rooms 2-3 of Degenstein Campus Center. The book launch, which is free and open to the public, kicks off the Medical Humanities Initiative's 2006-2007 Brown Bag Lecture Series.

Published by the University of Illinois Press, Medical Revolutionaries examines the herbalists, diviners, nurses, midwives and veterinary practitioners that flourished in the medical world of 18th century Saint Domingue. Using Western, African and Caribbean remedies, they treated the maladies of slaves, white residents and animals. While these enslaved medical practitioners were an important part of the plantation economy and colonial prosperity, they ultimately roused their fellow slaves to rebel against and overthrow French rule.

In the book, Weaver asserts that understanding the origins of the Haitian Revolution – one of the most important political events of its time – requires understanding the role of these enslaved healers. By using their position to conceive and implement an ideology of resistance through the destruction of human and animal life, occupational sabotage and terrorism, the healers inspired the Haitian Revolution, toppled the slave system in Saint Domingue, and led to the loss of France’s most productive New World colony.

The reading and discussion will be followed by a reception, during which time Weaver's book may be purchased. The event is sponsored by the Susquehanna University Medical Humanities Initiative, which fosters interdisciplinary inquiries into medicine. It brings together faculty and students to present and engage in scholarly work in the field.

Weaver is currently working on another book, tentatively titled She knew all the old remedies: Medical Care in the Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania. This project traces the history of medical caregivers who worked in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region. Immigrants and native-born Americans in the coal region sought medical care from neighborhood women, midwives, Pennsylvania German pow-wowers, American physicians and immigrant doctors. While most immigrants abandoned their medical customs as they assimilated into American society, Pennsylvania Germans retained their traditional medical system due to their creation of a strong ethnic identity. Ultimately, an adherence to biomedicine became the hallmark of an assimilated American.
Contact: Victoria Kidd


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