Alexandria C. Lynch, MS III
exposes the Nazi-like experimentation on African-American
Christian slaves by Dr. James Marion Sims (1813-1883) of
South Carolina, the so-called "Father & Founder of of
Modern Gynecology. His purported medical advances are still
hailed despite his utter butchery and murder of the oppressed
(black) and poor (Irish) women of America. Here is a Measured
and passionate account.
Note to the Editor
As a medical
student I am often exposed to a short history of the discovery and
or circumstances related to the construction of a tool or drug
before or during a scientific lecture. I almost always hear the
professor exclaim that Greece was the birthplace of modern
medicine and that we should thank this person or that person for
contributing to American medicine. Needless to say the countless
contributions of many other nations and people are almost always
I have spoken with other medical students for whom this is
also a problem. The reading material for most medical schools is
standardized and I am sure that each student can see that the
medical contributions that make it into most medical textbooks are
almost always devoid of contributions from minorities or people
who would not be considered white.
Very recently I was particularly affected by this inequality
as I listened to a lecture on the female exam. I felt like a large
part of the history was overlooked when the lecturer commented
that she would not discuss the controversial history of the
speculum except to say that Dr. [James Madison] Sims created a
very useful tool that allows physicians to examine the walls of
the vagina and the uterus.
I was very curious about the history that she was eager to
omit. After reading several accounts of his various cruelties and
the way they where distorted to make Dr. Sims out to be a hero I
was compelled to memorialize the enslaved women in the same way
that he is memorialized.
Anarcha was not able to tell
her own story it is probable that she was unable to read or write.
I am sure that her story would be more horrible than the fictional
account that I have written but with the bits and pieces that I
have placed together I am sure that what she endure in the name of
the advancement of medicine could have read like the following
C. Lynch, MS III
* * * *
Alexandria C. Lynch, MS III
Marion Sims (photo right)
pregnant woman stands in the blazing sun with her arms arched to
her back. Tired from an 18-hour workday, picking cotton, looking
after Master's children, or cooking in the big house. These days
are particularly hard for her, as it is hard for all women who
must work until the moment they are to give birth.
Yes, she is worn tired and
she can feel the aches grappling her bones. She is also filled
with a glorious anticipation, any day now her sweet beautiful baby
will be born. As an enslaved woman, life is difficult to say the
least but there are still beautiful moments that this woman cannot
be denied. Even though enslaved she can bring life into the world
as naturally as any other woman.
She returns to her cabin,
covering herself as best she can with a tattered cloth or
blankets. She has a conversation surrounding her thoughts and
concerns about the arrival of her child with her fellow captive
comrades. All of the women on the plantation are anxiously
awaiting the birth of this new hope and the father is also
anxious. Both parents have mixed concerns about bringing a child
into a life of slavery but there is nothing that can derail what
will soon happen.
Later on that night she
feels the pain of labor contractions. She is hoping to give birth
quickly because she knows that the birth of her child will not be
an acceptable reason to miss work the following day. She waits a
few hours and awakens the other women in the room with a scream.
They rush to her aid and prop her up on the bits and pieces of
tattered blankets. They make her as comfortable as possible.
night passes straight away and she is still in labor. The headman
must now be informed that she will not be in the field today. She
cannot stand and she cannot work. The day passes and still no baby
is born. She is tired and in pain. Three days will pass and she
still will not see her child.
After three days her
condition is past serious and the fact that she is unable to
perform her duties as an enslaved woman starts to weigh heavy in
the Master's thoughts. In an effort to protect his human investment
he summons a physician to aid in the delivery.
By this point she is beyond
fatigued and lying flaccid on the floor. He enters the room and
uses a tool to excavate the baby that was stubbornly lodged in the
woman’s vagina. He has had very little experience using his
makeshift forceps. Several days after the birth of her child she
is unable to control her bodily functions. Her Master finds her
condition repugnant and sends her to the same physician to see if
there is anything that he can do to repair his damaged property.
Scared and ill, she makes
her way to the backyard “hospital” that the physician had
constructed for the purpose of treating enslaved women with her
condition. She notices several enslaved women bound to the beds,
and laying on the floor they are emaciated from what looked like a
with fear she contemplates heavily what will be her fate. Were
these women being made well? Would she have to go through a
similar ordeal? Is there any place she can go or anyone that can
save her from what seemed like impending doom? She continues
forward into what seems like a small death camp.
The physician is happy to
see her. He is in the process of working on a surgery to repair
her condition. He is not interested in her personal condition or
in helping to relieve her from her suffering. He is interested in
the similarities between her and the women that he hopes to treat
one day. He tells her to prop herself up on a table that is
covered with a white cloth.
he forces her to spread her legs so that he can exam her damaged
vagina. She is unable to say anything as he pokes and prods in her
most private areas. She lies there in that backyard hospital and
waits while he completes his initial examination. He is pleased to
find that this woman has several “vesicovaginal fistulae” that
he would love to operate on. He calls over his fellow physicians
to exam the woman and they are equally as excited to perform a
surgical repair that have not yet been perfected.
Later on that day she is
prepped for surgery. She is not given any anesthetic and the
surgical field is not sterile. They hold her down and incise her
vaginal wall. Already in a vulnerable position she is unable to do
anything but scream. When the surgical procedure is complete the
physician uses a catgut thread to stitch her closed.
After the surgery the
physician administers an additive dose of opiates to control her
bowel movements. She is lying on the floor unable to conceive of
what has just occurred. She is to endure weeks of postoperative
“care” with minimal food and a physician inflicted
constipation. She hopes to return to her child and to her friends.
Weeks will pass and she will endure a similar surgery again only
this time she is in a deteriorated state. Weakened from the
infection that has set into her wounds.
to do anything besides bear the horrible circumstance. She will
endure the exposure of her genitalia to strange men, the pain of
surgery without antiseptics, or anesthetics, and the horrible post
operative “care.” Finally the physician will use silver
sutures and report that she has no infection. Out of the several
fistulae in her bladder the physician was able to heal one after
Her name was Anarcha and she
is often forgotten. While the physician Dr Sims is immortalized
with countless statues and memorials in his name. His
contributions to medicine are often celebrated and he is called
the “father of modern gynecology,” while her story has been
law Anarcha was not permitted to read or write and was unable to
document the cruelty that befell her. This was written in the
hopes that those who read this will remember her story and equate
Dr Sims success with an unimaginable morbidity.
Between 1846 and 1849 he used enslaved women as a
part of an ongoing experiment in vaginal surgery. It is doubtful
that he would have been able to refine the gynecological tools
such as the speculum and techniques that he is accredited to have
created without the exploitation of poor and enslaved women.
Dr Sims was a part of a society that did not view
an entire population of enslaved Africans as worthy of the most
basic human rights. Like countless others icons in medical
history, the physician is remembered while the people he used are
forgotten. These people have made an unimaginable contribution to
medicine. Shouldn’t they be remembered as often as Dr Sims?
Each time we as future healthcare providers pick
up a speculum we should think of Anarcha and the unimaginable
sacrifice that she was forced to make for the development of this
commonly-used tool. Let us never forget.
If you are interested in more about the J Marion
Sims and or other contributions made by the enslaved to the development.
An American Health
Dilemma: A Medical History of African Americans and the Problem of Race. By W. Michael Byrd and Linda Clayton.
Harriet A. Washington.
Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation
Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.
* * * *
was born in Long Island just next to Queens and
raised in a one family home in Bayside by her mother, a native
of Brooklyn, and her father, a recent immigrant from Barbados.
Her sister Tadia was born ten years after her birth. Alexandria
attended LaGuardia Performing Arts High School and majored in
voice and then completed a BA in Theatre and Dance at Queen's
College (CUNY). She currently is a 4th year medical student at
New York Medical College.
She hopes to practice Urology in New York.
Her hobbies include horseback riding, running in nice weather,
writing, and reading. She has a special interest in Black
medical history because it is an area of American history much
neglected and continues to be overlooked. From the beginnings of
slavery, enslaved Africans were used as guinea pigs for the
advancement of modern American medical science. Anarch's story,
she believes represents just one of many stories of those who
sacrificed much and gained little.
* * * *
Dr. James Marion Sims,
known as the American "father of gynecology," was famed as the
inventor of a surgical technique for curing vesicovaginal
fistula. He also performed hundreds of clitoridectomies and
ovariotomies to cure "sex-related diseases" in women. What is
usually not told about his career is the way he developed his
techniques. Before the Civil War, he kept women slaves in a
disused jailhouse and made them his guinea pigs, performing
hundreds of experimental and exploratory operations on them
until they died off one by one and were replaced by fresh
victims. Sims's career and writings bear out what some
psychologists have suspected, that early gynecological surgeons
were fundamentally women-haters with a sadistic bent.
In patriarchal societies,
said Marx [Karl Marx 1818 - 1883], "Woman's true qualities are
warped to her disadvantage, and all the moral and delicate
elements in her nature become the means for enslaving her and
making her suffer."—Barbara
The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets,
* * * *
The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
By Barbara G.
This fascinating, scholarly
hodgepodge spotlights the feminist underpinnings of
myth, religion, and culture. Before being lionized
as zaftig Norse angels who guided strong warriors to
Valhalla, Valkyries may have offered rebirth through
cannibalization. "Little Red Riding Hood" was based
on Diana, goddess of the hunt. Marriage was once
considered a sin, not a sacred union: St. Bernard
once proclaimed "it was easier for a man to bring
the dead back to life than to live with a woman
without endangering his soul." A few of the other
topics expounded upon are the Milky Way, Cinderella,
the moon, and males giving birth. While some of the
references put a cranky feminist spin on words that
might in context have different meaning—St.
Paul's oft-quoted "better to marry than to burn,"
for example—much in this vast tome will dazzle
dabblers and intellectuals alike.—Amazon.com
* * * *
Endgame AIDS in Black America
Continues Its Grim Toll on Blacks in the
U.S.—‘Endgame: AIDS in Black America’ on PBS—9 July
2012—Today in America, 152 people will become
infected with H.I.V.,” a speaker is telling a World
AIDS Day gathering as the program opens. “Half of
them will be black. Today in America, two-thirds of
the new H.I.V. cases among women will be black.
Today in America, 70 percent of the new H.I.V. cases
among youth will be black.”
the program, directed by Renata Simone, embarks
on a history lesson, tracing how AIDS was almost
immediately typecast as a disease of gay white men,
even though some of the earliest cases were in black
men. That led to an indifference among blacks at the
start of the epidemic, and soon along came the drug
nightmare of the 1990s, with sex being traded for a
fix, rampant needle sharing and resistance to
needle-exchange programs that sought to do something
about the problem. Endemic poverty in black America
of course exacerbated everything about the AIDS
acknowledge that they failed to take the kind of
vocal role in the early years that they had been
known for in civil rights battles and other
struggles. “I didn’t do what I could have done and
should have done,”
Julian Bond, the civil rights activist and a
former chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., says bluntly.—nytimes
* * *
* * * *
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation
on Black Americans
from Colonial Times to the Present
Medical Apartheid is the first and only
comprehensive history of medical experimentation on
African Americans. Starting with the earliest
encounters between black Americans and Western
medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience
that resulted, it details the ways both slaves and
freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments
conducted without their knowledge—a tradition that
continues today within some black populations. It
reveals how blacks have historically been prey to
grave-robbing as well as unauthorized autopsies and
dissections. . . .
The product of years of prodigious research into
medical journals and experimental reports long
Medical Apartheid reveals the hidden
underbelly of scientific research and makes possible, for the first
time, an understanding of the roots of the African American health
Kam Williams review
* * * * *
The New New Deal
The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era
By Michael Grunwald
Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.
Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network. Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.
* * * * *
Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.
She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—
* * *
The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance
Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It
By Les Leopold
How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions: Why did Americans let the gap between workers' wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives' pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America's new, postindustrial economy?
How do we make sure we never give our wages away to gamblers again? And what
can we do to get our money back? In this page-turning narrative (no
background in finance required) Leopold tells the story of how we fell
victim to Wall Street's exotic financial products. Readers learn how even
school districts were taken in by "innovative" products like collateralized
debt obligations, better known as CDOs, and how they sucked trillions of dollars from the global economy when they failed. They'll also learn what average Americans can do to ensure that fantasy finance never rules our economy again.
* * * *
Representations of Black Feminist Politics
By Joy James
James rejects the
liberalism of conventional black feminism for a radical agenda,
which, in the tradition of black feminists Ella Baker and Ida B.
Wells, targets capitalism and the state as perpetuators of race,
class, and gender oppression. Their legacy of radicalism and
activism is juxtaposed to the black feminist praxis and thought
of Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Elaine Brown. This book
successfully demonstrates that black feminism is authentically
rooted in the black community. Especially enlightening is
James's discussion on "distinctions between black men
championing black females as patriarchal protectors and black
men championing feminism to challenge sexism." An
interdisciplinary and well-analyzed representation of radical
black women fighting for rights and visibility. Recommended for
women's studies, African American studies, or political
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
update 1 June 2012