STAMFORD, CT - After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, thousands of freed slaves moved north in search of a better future. What they found instead was illness and disease, culminating in the largest biological crisis of the 19th century.
In his ground-breaking book, Sick From Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering During the Civil War and Reconstruction, James Downs, professor of History and American Studies at Connecticut College, reveals the untold story of one of the bitterest ironies in American history. Downs will discuss his book on Sunday, March 24 at 2 p.m. at The Ferguson Library’s Third Floor Auditorium, Bedford and Broad Streets, Stamford.
The medical calamity sparked by emancipation is an overlooked episode of the Civil War and its aftermath. In his work, Downs claims that between 1862 and 1870, at least a quarter of the four million former slaves got sick or died in epidemics that began with a smallpox outbreak in Washington and spread through the South as former slaves traveled in search of work.
Downs conducted much of his research in little-explored records of the medical division of the Freedmen’s Bureau and other archives. There, he found reams of information and personal accounts about the suffering and dying of freed slaves.
This program is generously supported by the Friends of The Ferguson Library.