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Sick from FreedomAfrican-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction$
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Jim Downs

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199758722

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199758722.001.0001

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Reconstructing an Epidemic

Reconstructing an Epidemic

Smallpox among Former Slaves, 1862–1868

(p.95) 4 Reconstructing an Epidemic
Sick from Freedom

Jim Downs

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the smallpox epidemic, the most devastating medical crisis that erupted throughout the South after the Civil War, and how it claimed the lives of thousands of freed slaves from 1862 to 1868. It argues that the epidemic resulted in large part from the inefficiencies of Freedmen’s Bureau hospitals to establish effective quarantines and conduct vaccinations as well as the federal government’s neglect of freedpeople’s health. It considers the high mortality rates caused by the smallpox epidemic, and how they were interpreted by federal officials, Southern planters, and both the Northern and Southern press as signs of the extinction of the black race. The chapter also cites the federal government’s lack of effort in addressing the outbreak of the virus throughout the South.

Keywords:   smallpox, epidemic, South, Freedmen’s Bureau, hospitals, quarantines, vaccinations, federal government, freedpeople, mortality

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