Within many traditional African communities midwives were revered as sacred healers.
Throughout enslavement midwives became spiritual warriors.
Much of what we know about gynecology and reproductive health comes from Black midwives passing down ancestral knowledge for generations.
Until the late 1700s Western medicine denied these practices as “medical,” so many enslaved midwives tended to pregnant women within their communities and the wives of their enslavers.
Midwives had vast knowledge of the female body in comparison to white male doctors. They knew what spiritual care and remedies expectant mothers needed.
But they also knew how to resist anti-Blackness exploiting our bodies. Midwives who were rootworkers gave enslaved women cotton roots to suck on, which helped prevent pregnancy.
Beginning in the early 1800s, laws were passed that made being an unlicensed midwife illegal. This effectively removed Black midwives from reproductive health until the mid 1900s.
According to the CDC, “Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women.” Black midwives and doulas are necessary for the physical and spiritual safety of our community.
It’s our right to remove Western medicine from our birthing experiences. The knowledge, love, and care that goes into birthwork is at the intersection of Black genius and the divine.
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