Black History Fun Fact Friday – “Drapetomania”

Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright was a prominent physician and medical writer in New Orleans. He specialized in “mental alienation,” an expression that meant a break with reality or a schism in mind. Cartwright is most known and remembered for his theories of drapetomania—the belief that a disease caused slaves to run away. Also known as “Free Negro Insanity,” Cartwright defined “Drapetomania” as the madness of black slaves running away from their white captors.

He derived this term from the Greek words drapeto, meaning “runaway slave” and mania, meaning “mad” or “crazy.” Cartwright believed that blacks who rebelled did so because of mental instability. He thought with the proper medical advice and treatment, they could prevent the practice of slaves running away. By 1851, Cartwright became “Professor of Diseases of the Negro” at the University of Louisiana and was deemed an expert on black behavior.

Cartwright’s theories were readily accepted because the law had already begun to link radicalized slaves who were “disobedient” to mental illness. “Cartwright compared runaway slaves to run away cats who fled only in fits of enthusiasm from their owners, and then returned.” (Eberly, 2014) To put it into perspective the extent to which enslaved men and women were considered commodities, consider redhibition, “a civil law claim against the seller and/or manufacturer of a product in which the buyer demands a full refund or a reduction of the purchase price due to a hidden defect that prevents the product from performing the task for which it was purchased.” (US Legal) If a buyer could prove a slave was mentally ill and that the previous owner knew of this illness (his/her capacity to run away, rebel, e.g.), the buyer could get his money back.

Another disease from Cartwright was “Dysaesthesia Aethiopica,” which in short was a disease Cartwright and other “prominent,” physicians claimed caused laziness in slaves.

“From the careless movements of the individuals affected with the complaint, they are apt to do much mischief, which appears as if intentional, but is mostly owing to the stupidness of mind and insensibility of the nerves induced by the disease. Thus, they break, waste and destroy everything they handle,–abuse horses and cattle,–tear, burn or rend their own clothing, and, paying no attention to the rights of property, steal others, to replace what they have destroyed. They wander about at night, and keep in a half nodding sleep during the day. They slight their work,–cut up corn, cane, cotton or tobacco when hoeing it, as if for pure mischief. They raise disturbances with their overseers and fellow-servants without cause or motive, and seem to be insensible to pain when subjected to punishment.”

– “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race.”

From James Marion Sims, who experimented on black women’s bodies and without anesthesia (Washington, 2006, pp. 61) to Ota Benga and Saartjie Baartman, whose bodies were displayed like animals, the medical and scientific field has an extensive history of racism against African Americans. Consider that blacks were often wrongfully admitted to mental institutions. Studies conducted in 1973 in the Archives of General Psychiatry showed that African American patients were more likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic than white patients. Consider too The Negro Project, led by Margaret Sanger of The American Birth Control Federation. It included the forced sterilization of impoverished African Americans.

Consider also the HeLa cell.

Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacksand Oprah’s film adoption brought attention to the widespread illegal use of the HeLa cell lineThe two scientists, Dr. Russell W. Brown and James H.M. Henderson made their mark by leading a team of researchers and staff at Tuskegee University in the mass production of the HeLa cells for the development of the polio vaccine. It was believed that blacks were immune to the virus which led to the disregard for the suffering of African Americans with the disease.

Speaking of Tuskegee, we cannot forget the Tuskegee Experiment or, more accurately, “The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” Initiated by the United States, Public Health Service in connection with the Tuskegee Institute and the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital, six hundred men were given the Syphilis disease, without consent, and were left untreated. This “experiment” lasted as late as 1972. Long-term effects of untreated syphilis included issues with mental functions, memory loss, loss of vision, balance, and other symptoms.

Understanding mental illness and its role in the enslavement and oppression of blacks is essential because it offers a window into how slave-owners justified slavery to keep it going. Consider the story of the white overseer who used mental illness to explain away why he had killed an enslaved man named Samuel. (Willoughby, 2018). The overseer got word that Samuel had become unmanageable, that he was destroying cotton, and that even after being ordered to be whipped, Samuel said he would not be whipped. Both of Samuel’s acts—his destruction of the cotton crop, and his unwillingness to submit to whipping— represented symptoms for what Cartwright deemed “Dysaesthesia Aethiopica,” and thus the murder was justified.


Be sure to check out more Black History Fun Facts Here.

References

Ariela Gross, Double Character: Slavery & Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom (Princeton, 2000), 87

Willoughby, Christopher D. E. “Running Away from Drapetomania: Samuel A. Cartwright, Medicine, and Race in the Antebellum South.” Journal of Southern History, vol. 84 no. 3, 2018, p. 579-614. Project MUSEdoi:10.1353/soh.2018.0164.

Disability and the African American Experience https://www.museumofdisability.org/disability-and-the-african-american-experience/

Redhibition. (n.d.) In US Legal, Redhibition Law and Legal Definition

https://definitions.uslegal.com/r/redhibition/

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

Development of the Polio Vaccine: A Historical Perspective of Tuskegee University’s Role in Mass Production and Distribution of HeLa Cells. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458465/

Flesh vs. Spirit

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

My anxiety is loud

but so is this victory

so is this freedom

so is this awakening.

My mind is a Warzone

where black and white spirits roam

both demons and angels alike

where sorrow and freedom are both soldiers

fighting for the opportunity to possess me

to take up space

that is the residence

of my conscious.

My body is a battlefield

that society tries to sacrifice to its traditions

and I try not to bleed out

on people who never cut me

since I am both spiritual

and fleshly

like you

So I shackle myself to my integrity

being both in chains and free

enslaved to nothing but truth

a special kind of liberation

submitted

as I strive to overcome this war

between my flesh

and my spirit.

No Whining Wednesday – Stop Overthinking

Welcome back to No Whining Wednesday, the only day of the week where you do not get to whine, complain or criticize for this entire 24hr day. If you are new to this blog or new to this segment, be sure to see the original post HERE for more on what this is all about.

The No Whining Wednesday Badge

I am sitting here drinking my coffee and reflecting and one thing comes to mind today: “EC, stop overthinking!”

I hope you know by now that the inspiration for these NWW messages come from what I tell myself or what I’ve learned on a very personal level at some time or another. That said, I overthink a lot which leads to anxiety, fear, and a host of other things that sneak in through this “overthinking doorway”. It gets to where I have to step away from social media completely if I am overstimulated. (I am probably the only person who deactivates their Facebook like every two weeks…don’t tell me you haven’t noticed. Speaking of which, it’s about that time lol.)

I say all of this to say that I understand the harm that overthinking can do to a person mind, to their health and to their ability to enjoy the moment. You’re always thinking about what could go wrong or if you’ve done something wrong instead of what could go right and if you’ve done something right. Like the quote says, when we overthink we are creating problems that aren’t there. This is torture of our minds and personal well-being. We are already under attack by others (either people are rooting for you or casting spells, better believe it), there’s absolutely no reason to add to this by doing this to ourselves.

Here are some harmful results of overthinking and I must add, not overthinking is harder than it sounds so don’t beat yourself up about it. Reclaiming that peace takes practice and time like everything else:

Limits you – Instead of taking action you are sitting there thinking about it and creating limitations that weren’t there before and will probably never exist.

Complicates things – Simple things now seem complicated. This is not just in relation to our personal lives but I notice we do this in Indie Publishing too. Sooo much is over-complicated. Honestly, it’s not that hard. I wish we could focus on encouraging each other to learn the basics and building on that instead of creating these long lists of things that will come naturally over-time if we just wait.

Depression – Overthinking leads to depression. Really bad depression.

Lack of Confidence – Over-thinkers expect bad things to happen instead of expecting good things to happen. This causes you to lack confidence in your abilities.

Fear – As a result, you are in a constant state of fear (anxiety is no laughing matter and it is, at its root, caused by fear)

Depletes Your Energy – You literally tire yourself out from thinking too much. The energy you could have used to be productive is now gone.

I hope this small list helps you to not think so much and sometimes you do have to take physical action. For instance, I turned my phone off until I finished this post. Stepping away from social media is also a great help for me. Whenever I feel that I am overdoing it I step back and it gives me peace. I’m an introvert at heart so I can only take so much.

That’s it folks. Don’t overthink it today.

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Revolution

Revolution comes from the German word Umwalzung and means a complete change. It is a complete change or replacement of a system. The destruction of the old for the new. What the so-called Black man and woman have been doing is seeking to be included in a system that already exists. We have been fighting to be accepted into a current system even though said system has excluded us for nearly 400 years. This is not revolution. This is not a separate system. This is the same system. Until we are comfortable having our own we will never truly revolutionize. There is nothing wrong with being a separate people and building a nation and until we understand this without the fear of being labeled discriminatory, we will never truly revolutionize. All other people have done it but as soon as the Black man says he wants to run his own businesses, as soon as he says he wants to live among his own people, as soon as he says he wants to build Black schools that teach Black children about Black history now he’s acting funny. He’s a supremacist, a racist, a separatist, extremist, and every other “-ists” in the dictionary. He’s radical and he’s militant because he wants his own same as others have their own.

Only in America is so much emphasis placed on color and other countries to which she has infected follow her traditions. Only the dishonest will fail to admit that the social, political, and economic atmosphere of this country (U.S.) encourages racism. Doesn’t matter where a man is, if he is rich or poor, skinny or fat, smart or ignorant, black, white, Chinese, or Asian, whether he is a plain man or an artist, if he reads books or not, if he is intelligent or simple, whatever he is he must be able to think for himself. As long as the so-called Black man and woman has been in America he has not been encouraged to think for himself or to seek anything of his own without America’s permission. He has not been capable of fully revolutionizing. He has been emancipated but his freedom only meant a transfer of ownership. He has gone from the property of the plantation to the property of the state. Then he was amended into society. He’s an add-on. He was added to the Constitution since before then he was America’s slave and unworthy of sitting down at her table to eat. So these people she referred to as Black had to be included into the system and still he was a slave and what to the slave is the Fourth of July?

He is taught to fight for a country that has never fought for him. To honor heroes who were never heroes to him. Twelve U.S. presidents were slave owners and four of the first five presidents were products of a Virginia society in which slavery was a part of everyday life. So while Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were all considered patriots who valued liberty, they were also all slave owners. Yet this people given the name Blacks are encouraged to regard her heroes as his own. This is not revolution. This is not a new system. This is begging to be part of a system that has long since rejected him. But before a people can revolutionize anything that people must first have a revolution of self. A shifting of perspective and complete change in thinking and if a man cannot change the way he thinks then he cannot change anything. Everything begins in the mind and so the revolution is in our thoughts. The revolution begins in the mind of the revolutionary first. If you cannot change yourself then you cannot change me.

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” – Marcus Garvey (he said it before Bob Marley’s Redemption Song)

13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don’t Do

Excellent article to help jump start your writing week! My favorite Post Quote: “We can’t control Amazon’s rules or Smashwords’ terms of service. We can’t control whether an agent accepts us. We can’t control whether Barnes & Noble lives or dies. We can control getting the words on the page. We can control building a brand capable of driving book sales. I see a lot of writers wasting a lot of energy over issues where they don’t have any control. That energy is better used elsewhere.”

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Kristen Lamb's Blog

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As y’all know I do a ton of reading and this includes lots and lots of blogs and articles. Over the holiday I ran across one article that just had me jumping up and down and yelling, “YES! THIS!” The Business Insider article “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” is based off Amy Morin’s book (which I highly recommend).

It doesn’t matter if we strive to have a healthy marriage, strong kids or a killer career, these tenets cross-apply to all areas of life. Mental toughness is a key component to being successful. Yes, even for writers.

So I figured I would tinker with this and make it more directly apply to writers and what we must do (or not do) if we long to do well in this career. Thus, today we are going to discuss 13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don’t Do.

#1 They don’t waste time…

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Value Yourself, Value Your Time

Value yourself

I don’t know who wrote this but I had to share it. It’s so true. We only work and spend our time according to how we see ourselves. Meaning that if we don’t think we are worthy then we are not going to value our time and therefore not do anything with it. Taking time to spend alone and reflect is not something that is optional for me. I believe that mental health is just as imperative as physical health but is highly underrated. Rarely do we consider mental clarity or offer exercises to help to maintain that kind of balance in our lives. Mental stability is just as important to me as physical health. Taking care of myself helps me to have the endurance to take care of others. Prayer, meditation, and just overall quite time gives me a chance to listen to my own thoughts, cultivate new writing ideas and examine where I am right now in my life, my goals, and those things that need to be improved. It helps me to be of service to my husband and to my community. The same way that reading and studying helps to exercise my brain, quite time and reflection help to clear my mind and organize my thoughts. For us to truly value our time I believe what the quotes says, we must first value ourselves. We have to know our worth in order to know what we’re worth. Only when we believe that we are truly worth it, will we have what it takes to truly appreciate these moments that too soon become memories.