Infant mortality has long been recognized as a disproportionate cause of death for black Americans. This talk examines the historical origins of tracking black infant mortality in the U.S. The data collected during slavery and in the long transition to freedom served a range of purposes, spanning preventative public health measures to theories forecasting black extinction. Drawing from a range of sources, Muigai explores the experiences underlying these numbers to consider how black parents, social scientists, and Washington bureaucrats have explained and debated the causes of infant death. The talk will consider the legacies of these counting practices in modern efforts to improve infant welfare and black health.
Wangui Muigai, Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and History at Brandeis University