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Infectious Fear

Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation

Samuel Kelton Roberts Jr.

Publication Year: 2009

For most of the first half of the twentieth century, tuberculosis ranked among the top three causes of mortality among urban African Americans. Often afflicting an entire family or large segments of a neighborhood, the plague of TB was as mysterious as it was fatal. Samuel Kelton Roberts Jr. examines how individuals and institutions--black and white, public and private--responded to the challenges of tuberculosis in a segregated society.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Social Medicine


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

For her continuous support and encouragement, I thank Christina Greer, my partner in so many ways. Without her, this book still might have reached its completion, but certainly not as happily. It is fortunate for us both that Christina was not alone in this sense. To my parents, Drs. Valerie H. Fisher and Samuel K. Roberts Sr., ...

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Introduction: Disease Histories and Race Histories

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pp. 1-18

In late September 1920, the case of Alice Barnes and her family was referred by the Baltimore Family Welfare Association to the Henry Watson Children’s Aid Society (HWCAS). Soon thereafter, the HWCAS sent its agent, S. S. Lawrence, to Barnes’s residence, a rented room in a ‘‘two story, six room house on a broad, smoothly paved street, ...

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1. Toward a Historical Epidemiology of African American Tuberculosis

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pp. 19-40

This book is primarily concerned with two overlapping and mutually informative periods in U.S. urban history: the era of infectious fear all but vanquished by the discovery of antimicrobial therapies, and a period, before the Second World War, when health policy and social policy were, comparatively speaking, ...

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2. The Rise of the City and the Decline of the Negro: The Historical Idea of Black Tuberculosis and the Politics of Color and Class

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pp. 41-66

Diseases and human endeavors to understand them occur in political and social context. The intellectual history of race and tuberculosis suggests that developments in theory, research, and technology— the discovery of the tubercle bacillus, epidemiological formulations, the development of radiographic and tuberculin screening, ...

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3. Urban Underdevelopment, Politics, and the Landscape of Health

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pp. 67-86

If the politics of freedom, color, and labor influenced medical theories of race and tuberculosis, on the other side of this dynamic were the ways in which spectacularly high rates of disease morbidity and mortality could suggest certain political options while foreclosing others. ...

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4. Establishing Boundaries: Politics, Science, and Stigma in the Early Antituberculosis Movement

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pp. 87-106

The larger politics of tuberculosis and the race-labor question described in chapter 2 and regional and local political economy presented in chapter 3 provided the ground on which white health professionals and statisticians racialized tuberculosis in the nineteenth century. ...

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5. Locating African Americans and Finding the ‘‘Lung Block’’

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pp. 107-138

After embracing house infection theory, early antituberculosis reformers faced the central and dual problem of strategizing surveillance and of convincingly presenting to the public the utility of the surrender of privacy. This was a novel political challenge in that one did not necessarily presume the other. ...

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6. The Web of Surveillance and the Emerging Politics of Public Health in Baltimore

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pp. 139-168

In a 1903 paper, William Osler interpreted Lawrence Flick’s theory as providing a mandate for the expansion of the public health state, advising all health departments that house infection required house surveillance. Osler in this regard was one of the most vociferous of Flick’s supporters in Baltimore, ...

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7. The Road to Henryton and the Ends of Progressivism

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pp. 169-200

The punch line to Baltimore Health Commissioner John Blake’s opening joke was the apocryphal remark made when a white gentleman offered to pay Rastus and Sambo five dollars each if they could name the ‘‘two best things in life.’’ With little contemplation, Sambo started off, saying, ...

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Conclusion: Unequal Burdens: Public Health at the Intersection of Segregation and Housing Politics

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pp. 201-222

A laboratory-centered history of the antituberculosis movement might conclude with the advent of chemical therapies—the development of streptomycin in 1944, followed by para-aminosalicylic acid (1949), isoniazid (1952), pyrazinamide (1954), cycloserine (1955), ethambutol (1962), and rifampicin (1963). ...


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pp. 223-298


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pp. 299-313

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9781469605890
E-ISBN-10: 1469605899
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807832592
Print-ISBN-10: 0807832596

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Studies in Social Medicine
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OCLC Number: 435671248
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Infectious Fear

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Subject Headings

  • Tuberculosis -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Diseases -- History -- 20th century.
  • Urban health -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Segregation -- Health aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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