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Out of Slavery

Out of Slavery

(p.17) Chapter 1 Out of Slavery
Delivered by Midwives
Jenny M. Luke
University Press of Mississippi

This chapter reaches back into slavery to underpin our understanding of African American childbirth culture and the specific cultural motifs that have persisted for generations. It describes a relational concept of health brought from Africa that clashed with the Western medical philosophy and the complexity of practice that emerged as a result. Enslaved midwives were granted authority to practice based on their spirituality and ancestry, both features of the relational vision of wellness, and became revered figures in the slave community and often in the white community too. Beyond establishing the centrality of the lay midwife’s role, this chapter shows how slave women resisted their owners’ attempts to usurp their bodies and how they adopted their own methods of controlling their fertility. This chapter sets the historical and cultural backdrop for the book.

Keywords:   Cultural motifs, Relational concept of health, Wellness, Community, Spirituality

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