Even as they were brutally forced from their homelands, enslaved Africans brought valuable medical and botanical knowledge with them to the Americas. Yale University historian Carolyn Roberts discusses how enslaved people contributed to medical and scientific knowledge in West Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Enslaved people discovered cures for various illnesses, introduced new plant knowledge to the Americas, engaged in life-saving public health work, and contributed to the history of vaccination in the United States. Enslaved people left the world a rich medical and scientific legacy. This little-known history can serve as a source of power and resistance today.
About the Author
Dr. Carolyn Roberts is an historian of medicine and science at Yale University. She holds a joint appointment in the departments of History/History of Science and Medicine, and African American Studies. She also holds a secondary appointment at Yale School of Medicine in the Program in the History of Medicine. Dr. Roberts’ book manuscript, To Heal and To Harm: Medicine, Knowledge, and Power in the British Slave Trade, traces the troubling relationship between the British slave trade and the development of modern medicine. Dr. Roberts is an award-winning educator. She is the 2021 recipient of Yale’s prestigious Sidonie Miskimin Clauss Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities. Dr. Roberts is also a popular workshop leader and speaker. She brings critical historical perspectives to anti-racism interventions in science, medicine, and public health. Her media appearances include the PBS/NOVA documentary The Violence Paradox and CNN.