Gender and Sexuality
Evelynn M. Hammonds, Harvard University

"The Physician's Negro:" Race and Racialization in U.S. Medicine


It is simply unquestioned here in the 21st century that human bodies are ‘different’ and that the concept of ‘race’ captures fundamental biological and cultural differences between individuals and groups. Despite persistent questioning of the use of racial categories in medicine beginning in the 20th century, from the colonial period forward, white physicians assiduously cataloged these differences and the physical body continued to play a contradictory role in making race real. Physician’s practices of comparison served to define what was ‘black’ and what was ‘white.’ This talk will consider how physicians’ practices of racial comparison produced racial categories like the “Negro.” The “Negroes” described in medical texts were not real representations of African Americans but rather a constructed category defined only by their difference from whites.