Smallpox & Slavery

For enslaved people, medical treatment existed at the nexus of violation and care. My dissertation, "Smallpox and Slavery: Morbidity, Medical Intervention, and Enslaved People's Lives in the Greater Caribbean," considers the histories of enslaved Africans who endured smallpox treatments during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, prior to the invention and promulgation of the cowpox vaccine.  I focus on enslaved people who endured smallpox quarantines, inoculations, and other forms of treatment during their oceanic voyages and in the Caribbean region. The slave trade and Caribbean slavery created a context in which smallpox (variola virus) could thrive. Smallpox outbreaks and medical interventions profoundly affected enslaved people's lived experiences in the Caribbean. I read across Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British archives to address the effects of morbidity and medical treatment and enslaved people's strategies for survival. In sum, my research attends to the understudied histories of enslaved people who were on the receiving end of medical treatment and the role of medical intervention in enslaved people's lives.

Generous fellowships from New York University, the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, the Social Science Research Council’s Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Mellon Mays Graduate Studies Enhancement Grants, the Huntington Library’s Evelyn S. Nation Short-Term Research Fellowship, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies support my research. I have presented my work at the Caribbean Studies Association Annual Conference (2014), the Association for the Study of African American Life and History Annual Conference (2015), the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (2017), and the Association of Caribbean Historians Conference (2018), the American Historical Association (2019), the Organization of American Historians (2019), the American Association for the History of Medicine (2019), and the Omohundro Institute Annual Conference (2019).