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Negritude: Disorder Of Being Black

Black History:  Special Delivery!!


Dr. Benjamin Rush is known as the “Father Of American Psychiatry”. He was also an abolitionist.  Rush believed that blacks suffered from a disorder he called “Negritude” due then having dark skin.   He described this condition as being akin to leprosy.  The only cure for the condition was to become white.

Dr. Rush sited the case of Henry Moss, a slave who lost his dark skin color (probably through vitigulo),  to support his claim of Negritude being a medical condition.  He thought being black was a curable skin disease.  Rush wrote that “Whites should not tyrannize over [blacks], for their disease should entitle them to a double portion of humanity. However, by the same token, whites should not intermarry with them, for this would tend to infect posterity with the ‘disorder’… attempts must be made to cure the disease.”

Some of our Black Mail readers may remember our previous post about “Drapetomania”, a condition used to that characterized the desire of slaves to run away and seek freedom as an illness.

Scientific racism is institutional and systemic. It exists today.

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Scientific Racism: The Drapetomania Diagnosis

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Dr. Samuel Cartwright
Dr. Samuel Cartwright (1793 – 1863)

American physician Dr. Samuel Cartwright (1793 – 1863) observed black slaves who fled from captivity and saw an illness.  In 1851 he named the illness, “Drapetomania or the “disease causing Negroes to flee”. He used this diagnosis to explain that black slaves did not really want freedom and that if they did try to escape, they were actually “ill”. Cartwright suggested that the cause of Drapetomania was slave masters treating their slaves in too humane of a manner. He also suggested the illness was further caused by slaves perceiving themselves to be individuals of worth. For Cartwright, the slave’s desire for freedom was an illness and Cartwright felt that he had the cure. Continue reading “Scientific Racism: The Drapetomania Diagnosis”

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