Enslaved Africans and doctors in South Carolina

J Natl Med Assoc. 2003 Mar;95(3):225-33.


This interpretation of the relationship between enslavement and American medicine in 19th century South Carolina reveals the intimacy that existed between Africans enslaved in that state and the doctors who practiced and taught there. Enslaved Africans were resourceful and reliable medical figures in the slave community. Their knowledge of medical botany permeated the slave quarters and plantation hospitals and was appropriated into southern medical knowledge. The trajectories of the careers of three South Carolina physicians are tied to their practice around and on the enslaved. The beginnings of gynecological surgery are linked to 1840s experimentation on enslaved African women performed by one of them.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / history*
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Education, Medical / history
  • Female
  • General Surgery / history
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / history
  • Herbal Medicine / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • Human Experimentation / history*
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Social Problems / economics
  • Social Problems / history*
  • South Carolina
  • United States

Personal name as subject

  • Francis Peyre Porcher
  • Julian John Chisolm
  • James Marion Sims