The Strange History and Career of Drapetomania: The Mania that Caused Enslaved Blacks to Escape and the Man Behind It
Author: dann j. Broyld, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Comment: Deirdre Cooper Owens, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
This is an online event.
In 1851, Dr. Samuel Adolphus Cartwright invented “Drapetomania” to describe the "psychological disorder" that caused a phenomenon of enslaved Blacks to run away from bondage before the Civil War. He spent enormous energy to research, diagnose, and suggest corrective treatments to mitigate the deviant tendency of Blacks to escape. This paper will address Drapetomania as “folk biology” propagated to the public and professionals by Cartwright, an authority in medicine, as truth and objective scientific inquiry. Of course, it was not. The paper will conclude with an examination of Drapetomania’s afterlife and its treatment in popular culture including film and literature.
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