History, Department of



Black Maternal and Infant Health: Historical Legacies of Slavery

Date of this Version



Am J Public Health. 2019;109:1342–1345.

doi:10. 2105/AJPH.2019.305243

PMCID: PMC6727302 PMID: 31415204


Copyright AJPH 2019


The legacies of slavery today are seen in structural racism that has resulted in disproportionate maternal and infant death among African Americans. The deep roots of these patterns of disparity in maternal and infant health lie with the commodification of enslaved Black women’s childbearing and physicians’ investment in serving the interests of slaveowners. Even certain medical specializations, such as obstetrics and gynecology, owe a debt to enslaved women who became experimental subjects in the development of the field. Public health initiatives must acknowledge these historical legacies by addressing institutionalized racism and implicit bias in medicine while promoting programs that remedy socially embedded health disparities.

Link to free online copy via PubMed Central