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Did you learn this piece of Black history in school?

Written by on February 2, 2021

When I was in school, I would always get tired of only being told about the enslavement of Black people. It seemed like educators knew nothing else about Black people except slavery and Martin Luther King Jr. I feel like we had to learn about him every year and they still never got the story straight. We never learned about the true realities of the Black experience in school. The only narrative that was taught to me in school was that the world hated us and there wasn’t really a reason why, it’s just the way the world works.

Even though I hate when conversations are consistently centered around the enslavement of Black people, as if Black people made no other contribution to history, I wish they would’ve taught us more specifically about what was going on at that time. Many, if not all of my teachers throughout my elementary middle school and high school career tried to lead me to believe that enslaved Black people never fought for their freedom until they were freed by Lincoln. Trust me, I completely understand there’s a lot of problematic things just within that statement alone but, that is what was taught to me in school. I remember asking my 4th grade teacher about why slaves never rebelled as a whole against the slave owners if they were out numbered. Her response was basically they just couldn’t because they weren’t strong or smart enough to revolt. My parents had to step in at that point because it was just getting to be too ridiculous.

I wish in school if they were going to teach us about slavery they should’ve taught us about things like Drapetomania. Did you ever learn about that in school? Me either.

Findings of this disease were published in a reputable scholarly journal in the early 1850s by Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright. Drapetomania was known as the “Blacks’ disease.”

This horrific disease proclaimed by Dr. Cartwright caused severe mania making the slave want to runaway. That’s right, a reputable scholarly journal backed up the findings of this back ass ward ‘doctor’ said that slaves only wanted to run away from slavery because they suffered from a mental illness. Again, if a Black person wanted to be free they labeled it as a mental illness. This doctor and accredited journal continued to say that slavery was a  ‘therapeutic necessity’ & that it was the moral obligation of White slave owners to keep them enslaved for their mental health (FSU,2005).


Okay, so are you ready for the cure of this ‘mental disease’? The first prescribed treatment was “beating the devil out of them” (FSU, 2005). If that didn’t work, they would cut their toes or feet off so they couldn’t run. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘but didn’t White people only look at Black people as property? If they aren’t able to do the job they need them to do because they’re missing toes or feet, what next?’ Right. You guessed it, shortly after someone was diagnosed with Drapetomania, they were often killed.

But wait there’s more…

This Cartwright guy was on a roll because not only did he discover the dastardly disease Drapetomania, he also coined Dysaethesia Aethiopica.

He identified the diagnosable symptoms of Dysaethesia Aethiopica as, “disobedience, insolence, and refusing to work” (FSU, 2005). Weird, refusing to comply and laziness? Sounds familiar… It’s almost like the perception of Black people and our stereotypes are a direct result of slavery.

Luckily for slave owners, Dysaethesia Aethiopica had a much simpler cure. “Put the patient to some hard kind of work in the open air and sunshine,” under the watchful eye of a White man. All better 🙃.

Scientific racism at its best. Unfortunately, Cartwright is but only one of the many doctors scientists & academics that used ‘science’ to justify the inhumane mistreatment and unnecessary categorization of Black people.

You can still see the affects of that today.



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