Slave health on plantations in the United States

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Diseases among slaves[edit]

While working on plantations in the Southern United States, many slaves faced serious health problems. Improper nutrition, unsanitary living conditions, and excessive labor made them more susceptible to diseases than their masters; the death rates among the slaves were significantly higher due to diseases. Human excretions in the water supply caused cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid, tuberculosis, influenza, and hepatitis, as well as other things such as STD's.[dubious ]

Slave diet[edit]

The calories in the diet of a slave were sufficient to maintain the slave’s body weight and normal health. The average daily energy intake of an adult slave was between 2500 and 3000 calories.[citation needed] So it was enough for the whole day’s work.[citation needed][dubious ] However, in terms of nutrition, it was not adequate. More than four-fifths of their calories came from corn and pork.[citation needed] It has also been reported that their diet also included bread, vegetables, fruits, and other meats.[citation needed] Fewer calories came from proteins as compared to fats and sugars. However, their diet was low in iron and important vitamins.[citation needed] Some of the slaves also had low levels of calcium due to lactose intolerance,[citation needed] which is more common among those with African ancestry;[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] other intestinal diseases were also problems for them.[citation needed] Due to vitamin A deficiency, some of them had weakened nocturnal eyesight.[citation needed]. Diseases such as anemia (due to inadequate iron) and rickets (inadequate vitamin D)[dubious ] were caused by malnutrition among the slaves.[citation needed] Thus, due to dietary quality, not quantity, the slaves developed health problems.

Slave Clothing[edit]

The masters only gave slaves pairs of "gator shoes" or "brogans" for footwear, and sometimes children and adults who were not working had to walk around barefoot.[citation needed] However, these clothes and shoes were insufficient for field work; they did not last very long for field slaves. It is judged that the health of male workers broke down rapidly after they joined the field gangs.[11]

Medical attention given to slaves[edit]

Slave masters often tried to cure their ill slaves before they sent the slaves to a doctor. Planters wishing to save money relied on their own self-taught skills and the help of their wives to address the health care needs of slaves.[12] Some blacks developed or retained from African heritage their own brand of care, complete with special remedies, medical practitioners and rituals.[13] If the home treatment did not help to improve the slave’s condition, they would then send them to the physician or asked the doctor to come to the plantation. A slave who became ill meant loss of working time; death an even greater loss.[14] Given the cost of slaves and their importance to plantation economies, planters organized slave hospitals to treat their serious health problems.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Itan, Y.; Jones, B. L.; Ingram, C. J.; Swallow, D. M.; Thomas, M. G. (2010). "A worldwide correlation of lactase persistence phenotype and genotypes". BMC Evolutionary Biology 10: 36. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-36. PMC 2834688. PMID 20144208. 
  2. ^ Bayless, T. M. and Rosensweig, N. S. 1966. A Racial Difference in Incidence of Lactase Deficiency: A Survey of Milk Intolerance and Lactase Deficiency in Healthy Adult Males. Journal of the American Medical Association 197(12): 968–972.
  3. ^ Welsh, J. D., Rohrer, V., Knudsen, K. B. and Paustian, F. F. 1967. Isolated Lactase Deficiency: Correlation of Laboratory Studies and Clinical Data. Archives of Internal Medlit 120(3): 261–269.
  4. ^ Huang, S. S. and Bayless, T. M. 1968. Milk and Lactose Intolerance in Healthy Orientals. Science 160(3823): 83–84.
  5. ^ Cook, G. C. and Kajubi, S. K. 1966. Tribal Incidence of Lactase Deficiency in Uganda. Lancet 287(7440): 725–730.
  6. ^ Jersky, J. and Kinsley, R. H. 1967. Lactase Deficiency in the South African Bantu. South African Medical Journal 41(Dec): 1194–1196.
  7. ^ Bolin T. D., Crane G. G. and Davis A. E. 1968. Lactose intolerance in various ethnic groups in South-East Asia. Australasian Annals of Medicine 17(4): 300–306.
  8. ^ Flatz, G. 1969. Lactose Intolerance in Thailand. Nature 221(5182): 758–759.
  9. ^ Elliott, R. B., Maxwell, G. M. and Vawser, N. 1967. Lactose maldigestion in Australian Aboriginal children. Medical Journal of Australia 1(2): 46–49.
  10. ^ Flatz, G. and Rotthauwe, H. W. 1971. Evidence against nutritional adaption of tolerance to lactose. Human Genetics 13(2): 118–125.
  11. ^ Smith, Simon; Martin Foster (December 2011). "The Hazards of Slavery". Significance. 4 8: 180. doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2011.00526.x. 
  12. ^ McBride, David (September 2005). "Slavery As It Is: Medicine and Slaves of the Plantation South". OAH Magazine of History. no. 5 19: 37. doi:10.1093/maghis/19.5.36. 
  13. ^ Savitt, Todd L. (September 2005). "Black Health on the Plantation: Owners, the Enslaved, and Physicians". OAH Magazine of History 19 (5): 16. doi:10.1093/maghis/19.5.14. 
  14. ^ McBride, David (September 2005). "Slavery As It Is: Medicine and Slaves of the Plantation South". OAH Magazine of History 19 (5): 37. doi:10.1093/maghis/19.5.36. 
  • Postell, William D (1970). The Health of Slaves on Southern Plantations. Gloucester: Louisiana State University Press. 
  • Dunaway, Wilma A (2003). The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • "The Carmichaels and the Health Care of Slaves". Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. University of Virginia. 2005.