After the Pandemic Legacies Conference: Continue the Learning on Medicine

By Lisa Herndon, Manager, Schomburg Communications and Publications
October 14, 2021
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center held its conference Pandemic Legacies: Health, Healing, and Medicine in the Age of Slavery and Beyondearlier this month. Over three days, noted scholars and authors discussed Black physical and mental health, racial disparities in healthcare, and the public healthcare system from enslavement to the present day.
If those talks inspired further interest in learning about Black wellness, find out more about a current exhibition, curated reading materials from the Center's  librarians, and groundbreaking physicians who shattered gender and racial stereotypes. Information is available online and by making a research appointment.


The glass display case containing a large business ledger listing the cause of death of  enslaved people and how much the owner recouped.
The Death Claim Book by Nautilus Insurance, featured in the exhibition Subversion & The Art of Slavery Abolition, details the enslaved person’s age, cause of death, and the amounts owners recouped.

Photo: Lisa Herndon

How much did enslavers think an enslaved person’s life was worth? That answer is revealed in Subversion & The Art of Slavery Abolition. Curated by Dr. Michelle Commander, associate director of the Lapidus Center, this exhibition examines how eighteenth and nineteenth century abolitionists used music, art, and literature to advocate for the freedom of enslaved people in the U.S.
View the Death Claim Book by Nautilus Insurance. The company, known today as New York Life Insurance, was one of many businesses that sold policies to enslavers to ensure enslaved people in the case of death or an injury. The book details the enslaved person’s age, cause of death, and the amounts owners recouped.


The words Schomburg Syllabus are in white and printed on a blue and burgundy background.
Schomburg Center staff curated online materials and collections at the Schomburg Center to offer an in-depth understanding of the Black experience.

Curated by Schomburg Center staff, #SchomburgSyllabus consists of Black-authored and Black-related online educational resources connecting web-archived resources and materials in our collections. It is organized by categories such as Health & Medical Racism and Mental Health & Wellness. The materials offer an in-depth understanding of the Black experience.


 A yellow pamphlet with words “The Clinical Practice of Community Psychiatry at Harlem Hospital in the top center. Dr. Davis’s name listed below the type..
Dr. Elizabeth Bishop Davis became the first director of Harlem Hospital's newly established Department of Psychiatry.

African American psychiatrist Elizabeth Bishop Davis began her career in the late 1940s with the Lafargue Clinic, the first mental health facility primarily serving African Americans in Harlem. Her father, the Rev. Shelton Hale Bishop, rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, helped establish the facility. In 1962, Davis accepted the position of director of Harlem Hospital's newly established Department of Psychiatry. She served in that role until 1978.

The Elizabeth Bishop Davis Papers in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division include published articles from 1964-1979 and papers given at medical conferences from 1964 to 1982. Dr. Davis’s writings covered subjects such as psychiatric health care in inner-city settings and the role of psychoanalysis as part of the treatment for those with mental illnesses. Plus, she addressed the impact of poverty and racial discrimination on mental health, community psychiatry, and Black psychiatrists.

The Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division holds the videodiscs Oral History Interview with Dr. Elizabeth Bishop Davis. Hear directly from Dr. Davis in an interview conducted by Jean Blackwell Hutson, the Center’s chief librarian, in 1983. The conversation covers why Dr. Davis became a psychiatrist, her education and training, and the challenges of being a Black female doctor in 1950s America. Dr. Davis also discusses being the founding director of the Psychiatric Department of Harlem Hospital in 1962 and its expansion under her leadership.


 Headshot of Dr. Williams.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams made history as the first doctor to successfully perform open heart surgery.

NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1223195

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams made history as the first doctor to successfully perform heart surgery. His career in medicine was one of activism for equal access for Black people to quality health care or giving back by teaching the next generation of medical professionals. Challenging the status quo of segregated hospitals in Chicago, Williams opened an interracial one. He founded the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, which had also had an interracial staff,  in 1891.

The Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division has books on this trailblazing physician for readers of all ages. Explore titles such as Daniel Hale Williams: Surgeon Who Opened Hearts and Mindsby Mike Venezia and Doctor Dan: Pioneer in American Surgery by Helen Buckler.



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The #SchomburgSyllabus is made possible through The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s generous support for the #SchomburgSyllabus project, and the Community Webs program, which is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Internet Archive, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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