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UCI Medical Humanities Initiative Work-in-Progress

Broken Black Bodies:

African American Women and Intimate Violence in the 19th Century South

Presented by Jessica Millward, Associate Professor of History

Date: Wednesday, November 15th, 2017
Time: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Location: Humanities Instructional Building 135. Parking is in $10 in Mesa Parking Structure (directions).

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With a few notable exceptions, there has yet to be archival-based research project discussing African American women and intimate partner violence throughout the 19th century. The goal of this presentation is to offer a larger perspective on how African American women experienced, interpreted and survived their experiences with domestic abuse particularly in the first fifty years after the Civil war. This was the first moment when formerly African American women had legal rights to their own bodies. The relationship between this project and the medical humanities initiative is three fold.  First, the project turns the lens of violence during the late nineteenth century from lynchings of black men to violence often suffered at the hands of Black men.  This shift in the historiography will not be popular; nor will it be easy to trace.  However, it is necessary if we are to understand African American women’s long history with violence.   Second, the project brings history in closer dialog with practices in patient care and recovery so that we can see how the mechanisms of survival over time.  And third, this project builds upon other activist work in the medical humanities focusing on the need to eradicate violence within the family.  This project finds itself in good company with other units on campus interested in using medical science to advocate for social change and likewise, to investigate how societal remedies may actually worked to the detriment of liberating the survivor.