NYC Lecture: Racial Disparities in Civil War Medicine

Released: 6-Dec-2012 12:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: New York Academy of Medicine
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Black Civil War Soldiers: Disparities in Wartime Medicine
Date: December 10, 2012
Time: 6 PM - 7:30 PM
Location: The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue (at the corner of 103rd)

Speakers: Cheryl Wills, NY1 News television anchor and author; Harold Holzer, Chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation

Sponsored by: NYAM Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health

Location: The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029

Contact: Andrew J. Martin (212) 822-7285 amartin@nyam.org

As the nation commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, The New York Academy of Medicine will present an informative and critical discussion of the experiences of black soldiers during and after the Civil War, and their treatment by medical and government institutions. Cheryl Wills, NY1 News television anchor and author of the scholarly and important biography, Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale, is a direct descendant of Private Sandy Wills, who served from 1863 – 1866 as a member of the United States Colored Troops. Sandy, Cheryl’s great-great-great grandfather, fled his slave plantation with five of his brothers, and together they served in the 4th Heavy Field Artillery based out of Columbus, Kentucky. Upon obtaining their pension and medical records more than a century later from The National Archives vaults in Washington, D.C., Cheryl found startling differences in their medical treatment as the old soldiers aged. Wartime medicine during the Civil War era was the first large-scale encounter between the U.S. Government, Africans, and an organized health care system. About 33,000 black soldiers died during The Civil War, but only 4,000 deaths were from combat. Black soldiers were much more likely to die from infectious disease that afflicted camp life: diarrhea and dysentery, pneumonia, TD, malaria (despite the belief that Africans were less susceptible), and smallpox.

Ms. Wills will bring these statistics to life through her family's harrowing journey from slavery to freedom with a presentation that includes surgeon’s reports from the Civil War era and the decades that followed. Ms. Wills will be joined by one of the nation’s preeminent Lincoln scholars, Harold Holzer. Holzer's book, Emancipating Lincoln, investigates the critical process whereby Lincoln penned the Emancipation Proclamation. Holzer also examines Lincoln's image as the "Great Emancipator" and the ways that Americans have come to understand and interpret the proclamation in the decades that followed.


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