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Health Is a Human Right: Race and Place in America

Health Is a Human Right: Race and Place in AmericaSeptember 28, 2013 – April 25, 2014

This exhibition examines some historic challenges of the past 120 years in achieving health equity for all in the U.S. We know that “race and place” are as important as personal choices in achieving our full potential. People with low-incomes, minorities, and other socially disadvantaged populations face significant inequities in opportunity for optimal health. This can lead to inequities in health, along the lines of race, ethnicity, and place.

In addition to viewing historic photographs, documents, and objects, visitors can check up on the health of their communities through interactive atlases. Videos, including one of Michelle Obama talking about access to fresh fruit and vegetables, will be integrated throughout.

Health Is a Human Right: Race and Place in America is organized and sponsored by the David J. Sencer CDC Museum, Office of the Director for Communication, and the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, CDC; with additional support from The California Endowment through the CDC Foundation.

Image: Emerson Elementary School class picture, ca. 1947 Courtesy of Shades of San Francisco, San Francisco Public Library

  • Shades of San Francisco, San Francisco Public Library - Class photograph, Emerson Elementary School, ca. 1947, reflecting San Francisco’s racial and ethnic diversity - Whether children have a healthy start is determined, in part, by the environmental safety of where they live, where they are educated, and whether they have access to healthy foods and health care.
    Shades of San Francisco, San Francisco Public Library - Class photograph, Emerson Elementary School, ca. 1947, reflecting San Francisco’s racial and ethnic diversity.
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries - Visionary sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) in his Atlanta University office, 1909 - DuBois was among the first to note that the health disparities of American blacks stemmed from social conditions and not from inherent racial traits. He provided empirical evidence that linked the legacy of slavery and the inherent racism of American society to the poor health of blacks.
    University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries - Visionary sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) in his Atlanta University office, 1909 - DuBois was among the first to note that the health disparities of American blacks stemmed from social conditions and not from inherent racial traits. He provided empirical evidence that linked the legacy of slavery and the inherent racism of American society to the poor health of blacks.
  • National Archives and Records Administration - 1923 cartoon, “Southern Farmer’s Burden,” depicting a white farmer carrying a cotton bale with a sick black worker being stung by a giant mosquito - In response to high rates of malaria among rural blacks, the Georgia State Board of Health appealed to white farmers to provide adequate housing to their African American workforce. Blacks who labored on southern cotton plantations typically lived in poor quality housing near swampy land – a perfect breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitos.
    National Archives and Records Administration - 1923 cartoon, “Southern Farmer’s Burden,” depicting a white farmer carrying a cotton bale with a sick black worker being stung by a giant mosquito - In response to high rates of malaria among rural blacks, the Georgia State Board of Health appealed to white farmers to provide adequate housing to their African American workforce. Blacks who labored on southern cotton plantations typically lived in poor quality housing near swampy land – a perfect breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitos.
  • Atlanta History Center - An example of sub-standard African American housing in Atlanta, GA, 1920 - The 13th Annual Conference for the Study of Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University in 1908, includes an indictment of alley housing characterized by over-crowding, and poor construction and sanitation.
    Atlanta History Center - An example of sub-standard African American housing in Atlanta, GA, 1920 - The 13th Annual Conference for the Study of Negro Problems, held at Atlanta University in 1908, includes an indictment of alley housing characterized by over-crowding, and poor construction and sanitation.
  • Artwork by Emory Douglas - Illustration, “Hypertension Kills”, showing black man holding poster that says, “I’m hungry, I’m unemployed, I’m black,” from The Black Panther newspaper, July, 1975 - These are some of the social factors that can contribute to hypertension. The prevalence of high blood pressure is more common among blacks compared with whites and Mexican Americans.
    Artwork by Emory Douglas - Illustration, “Hypertension Kills”, showing black man holding poster that says, “I’m hungry, I’m unemployed, I’m black,” from The Black Panther newspaper, July, 1975 - These are some of the social factors that can contribute to hypertension. The prevalence of high blood pressure is more common among blacks compared with whites and Mexican Americans.
  • Tuskegee University Archives - U.S. TB death rates chart, 1940, documenting the disparities between black and white males and females relative to death rates from tuberculosis - Many factors can be attributed to these disparities, including poverty and lack of access to health care and treatment.
    Tuskegee University Archives - U.S. TB death rates chart, 1940, documenting the disparities between black and white males and females relative to death rates from tuberculosis - Many factors can be attributed to these disparities, including poverty and lack of access to health care and treatment.
  • Harper’s Weekly magazine - Illustration, June, 1900, with caption, “Chinamen confined in their quarters cooking their meals” - A case of bubonic plague contracted by a Chinese man in San Francisco in 1900 resulted in a Board of Health order of a year-long quarantine of Chinatown. Critics, both Chinese and white, questioned the Board’s strategy of dividing the contaminated from the uncontaminated along racial lines, with no scientific evidence to support these policies.
    Harper’s Weekly magazine - Illustration, June, 1900, with caption, “Chinamen confined in their quarters cooking their meals” - A case of bubonic plague contracted by a Chinese man in San Francisco in 1900 resulted in a Board of Health order of a year-long quarantine of Chinatown. Critics, both Chinese and white, questioned the Board’s strategy of dividing the contaminated from the uncontaminated along racial lines, with no scientific evidence to support these policies.
  • National Library of Medicine; photograph by P.E. Brooks - U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and Immigration Service officers interrogating a Chinese immigrant, Angel Island, California, 1923 - Asian immigrants who arrived the first part of the 20th century received special scrutiny because they were considered disease carriers. The Asian community mounted many legal challenges to these practices.
    National Library of Medicine; photograph by P.E. Brooks - U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and Immigration Service officers interrogating a Chinese immigrant, Angel Island, California, 1923 - Asian immigrants who arrived the first part of the 20th century received special scrutiny because they were considered disease carriers. The Asian community mounted many legal challenges to these practices.
  • San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library - A doctor coaxing a child with his mother at a Chinatown Well Baby Clinic, San Francisco, 1934 - In 1921, Congress passed the Maternity and Infancy Act to provide instruction in maternity and infant care. Through this funding, “Well Baby Clinics” were held across the country, typically segregated by ethnicity or race.
    San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library - A doctor coaxing a child with his mother at a Chinatown Well Baby Clinic, San Francisco, 1934 - In 1921, Congress passed the Maternity and Infancy Act to provide instruction in maternity and infant care. Through this funding, “Well Baby Clinics” were held across the country, typically segregated by ethnicity or race.
  • University of Washington Libraries; photograph by Norman Edson - Salishan man William We-ah-lup smoking salmon, Tulalip Indian Reservation, Washington, 1906 - With the implementation of commodity government food assistance programs, Native Americans lost time-honored cultural practices and food traditions. Erosion of healthy eating and subsequent poor health resulted. However, through persistent protest and public awareness, tribes such as those of the Pacific Northwest, fought for protection of fishing rights and today teach traditional fishing, food preparation, and environmental stewardship to Indian youth.
    University of Washington Libraries; photograph by Norman Edson - Salishan man William We-ah-lup smoking salmon, Tulalip Indian Reservation, Washington, 1906 - With the implementation of commodity government food assistance programs, Native Americans lost time-honored cultural practices and food traditions. Erosion of healthy eating and subsequent poor health resulted. However, through persistent protest and public awareness, tribes such as those of the Pacific Northwest, fought for protection of fishing rights and today teach traditional fishing, food preparation, and environmental stewardship to Indian youth.

Special Curator Tours

Join Louise E. Shaw, Curator, David J. Sencer CDC Museum for a special tour.

Time: 12:30PM

Dates: March 13th, 26th; April 9th, 23rd

The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are required; RSVP to museum@cdc.gov .

Driver’s license or passport required for entry. Vehicle inspection required. Space is limited to 20 people per tour.

  • Page last reviewed: November 19, 2013
  • Page last updated: February 5, 2014
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