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A not-so-secret history of violence

Racism & Healthcare

Chattel Slavery

The foundations of systemic racism

  • European colonizers brought Chattel Slavery officially in 1619
  • This U.S. economy flourished on the labor of people enslaved by race
  • Many sought to justify & perpetuate slavery through medicine


Content Warning

violence and brutality

Though systems of slavery had existed for much of recorded human history, the Chattel system (officially founded in 1619 when 20 people were sold in VA) was unique for its basis in race and its ability to be passed through generations. Almost every European ship which touched American soil carried enslaved people, and systems of brutally killing and enslaving indigenous people began nearly instantaneously. When the harsh conditions of mines, sugar, and cotton plantations resulted in the death of nearly every enslaved person, colonizers looked for a new source by capturing innocent individuals from Africa starting the Atlantic Slave Trade to sustain the agricultural desires of wealthy Europeans.

Many try to separate U.S. success and its current capitalist system from slavery; however, the economic dependence on slavery is central to the development of the systems still used today.

Many doctors abused enslaved people to not only further their medical knowledge, but to attempt to prove physiological differences to justify slavery. The findings and writings of these racist doctors lie at the heart of U.S. medicine today.

"I advance it therefore, as a suspicion only, that blacks ...are inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind"

Thomas Jefferson

3rd President of the United States
Primary author of The Declaration of Independence

A lot of current medical knowledge comes from research of doctors on enslaved people and other Black Americans without their free and knowing consent. This research affects modern day mortality rates of POC patients. Additionally, doctors traded black bodies for medical schools and museums.

Even today, many do not know the malignant history of medical research and recently doctor's have been praised despite their horrendous practices.


Slavery could legally be passed through generations by partus sequitir ventrum. Especially after the African slave trade became illegal in 1807 slave owners and their doctors raped and assaulted enslaved people to increase the number of people they controlled.

For further research read Medical Bondage Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology by Deirdre Cooper Owens.


Race did not exist in common vernacular until the European colonialization of America. Doctors such as Samuel Cartwright published papers which noted physical maladies and inferiorities to justify slavery which still influence medical diagnostics today.

Historical practice of justifying slavery through medicine.


Does it really mean Freedom?


Not yet

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

The 13th amendment ended traditional Chattel slavery; however, its clause about incarceration allows slavery and involuntary servitude today. Additionally, the end of traditional slavery did not end medical abuse.

13th Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Henrietta Lacks


Civil Rights & Planned Parenthood

Reconstruction & Independence

Access to Care

Jim Crow & the Hills-Burton Act

Sheppard-Towner Act

Black Lives Matter



The system still holds onto many of its racist practices and suffers from a lack of diversity.

The system still hurts POC

No effective universal healthcare exists & POC still suffer economically making them most vulnerable


Black Lives Matter

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