Black History: Special Delivery!!

fannie lou hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer 1917-1977

The term, “Mississippi Appendectomy” was popularized by Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. It refers to involuntary sterilization procedures that were performed on African American women. While having surgery to remove a tumor, in 1961 Hamer was given a hysterectomy without her knowledge or consent by a white doctor as a part of the state of Mississippi’s plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state. Hysterectomies or tubal ligations were performed on many other poor black women against their will and without their knowledge. Due to rampant discrimination and prejudice there was a belief that certain individuals of color or poor women in general were “unfit” to reproduce.

These forced/coerced sterilizations took place across the country but were considered particularly frequent in the deep south. Poor women, women with physical disabilities, or characteristics for which physicians deemed these women “unfit to reproduce” were often targeted for sterilization. Poor white women and Native Americans were also subjected to these types of coercive sterilization practices. Women outside the U.S. were also subjected to these involuntary sterilization procedures.

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