Did Slavery Give Way to Advances in the Medical Society


Based on a review of historian Grandin’s book by Anthropologist P. Kerim Friedman, it seems that slavery was a learning opportunity to help doctors and psychologists find new ways to better the lives of humans.

I never thought slavery could help solve problems under the field of medicine. According to Friedman’s review, during the time of slavery, doctors worked along the Atlantic Seaboard helping suffering slaves and finding new ways to make the business more profitable. They observed and found new ways to lower mortality rates as well as calculate caloric intake rates based on the amount of food and water provided and the amount of work done by the slaves. Psychologists observed the moods of slaves and found that they had melancholia and nostalgia that affected their work and daily lives. Based on my knowledge of slavery, African Americans were never really seen as human. However, these new observations showed the world that slaves battled the same issues that all humans did, sickness and mood changes. It defined African Americans as human and helped the medical society to allow for more research on diseases and problems that occur so often in life.

Originally, the doctors had the intention to lower expenses for slave owners by reducing mortality rates and better the health of slaves, but they made medical discoveries that benefited the general population as well. Anthropological research not only affects one field, rather it affects all fields by sharing different connections such as this case with Medical Anthropology.

Friedman, P. Kerim (2014, March 8). Decentering Freedom [Web log post] Retrieved from http://savageminds.org/2014/03/08/decentering-freedom/


One thought on “Did Slavery Give Way to Advances in the Medical Society

  1. I would like to preface my comment with, “No, slavery was not beneficial.”

    Although there are a plethora of reasons why I’ve come to the conclusion above, through an Anthropological lens, we can see that slavery is the epitome of society’s ability to limit and dehumanize a group of people because of a perceived difference/weakness.

    As we discussed earlier in the semester, in order to fully grasp the teachings of this class, we are to emulate Anthropologists as much as possible. Anthropological study requires both participant observation while employing cultural relatism. The alleged “benefits of slavery” that this post implies does not employ cultural relatism because this post fails to practice a suspension of judgement and it is also offensive.

    While slavery was indeed a “learning opportunity to help doctors and psychologists,” one must take extra care when suggesting that slavery was used to, “find new ways to better the lives of humans” because this suggests that the advancement of Western Medicine corresponds to the advancement of human life. Also, the costs of the forced relocation and enslavement 12.5 million people most certainly outweigh the benefits.

    It should also be noted that Grandin’s book and essay (referenced in the cited book review) do not attempt to illuminate any benefits of slavery. Instead, Grandin points out the information gained by the corps of Doctors, who conducted tests/experiments on slaves, was used to “advance” Western Medicine. In addition to this, many of the ailments, sicknesses and struggles experienced by the slaves were caused/encouraged by slavery itself.

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