Secret Doctors: Ethnomedicine of African Americans

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ABC-CLIO, 1994 - Medical - 162 pages
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Based on an ethnographic study of the traditional medicine of African Americans in the rural southern United States, this work concentrates on the original Louisiana Territory, with its Native and African American indigenous traditions, and the French migration and Black Haitian freed and enslaved population influx during the 1700s and 1800s. Fontenot finds strong ties between rural Louisiana practices and Haitian and West African medicine. The ethnographer, a native of the region where she did her research, is respected among local practicing secret doctors and is able to give a unique insider's view. Aside from documenting a rare treasure of our American cultural diversity, this study has a wider purpose in the field of health practices and policy. The high cost of Western medicine, lack of access to quality care, and the patient-doctor ratio are areas of major national concern, and rural residents and people of color are recognized to be the most at-risk populations. The alternative health-care system presented here can strengthen mainstream medicine's understanding of such patient populations while preserving valuable knowledge of healing plants and culturally sensitive therapies.


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1 Historic and Contemporary Opelousas Territory
A Historical Perspective
3 Secret Doctors Tell Their Stories
4 Madame Neau and Ethnopsychiatry
5 AfricanAmerican Women and Health Care
6 Religion Prayer Narratives and Healing
7 Ritual Artifacts
8 Medical Ethnobotany of African Americans
Medical Ethnobotany Plant List

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About the author (1994)

WONDA L. FONTENOT is Executive Director of Wannamuse Institute for the Study of Arts, Culture, and Ethnicity in Opelousas, Louisiana. With a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies/Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley, she also does consulting in health care and rural African-American traditions. She has published a study of Madame Neau: The Practice of Ethno-Psychiatry in Rural Louisiana in Wings of Gauze: Women of Color and the Experience of Health and Illness, edited by Susan Cayleff and Barbara Blair (1993).

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