Sick From Freedom Summary

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A Review of Sick From Freedom

Jim Downs, notable historian who researches the civil war and reconstruction’s effect on slaves is the author of the fascinating book Sick From Freedom. The Civil War is infamous for how disease claimed lives of more soldiers than military combat. In his book Downs exemplifies that disease and sickness actually had a more devastating effect on emancipated slaves than on soldiers. Downs encourages readers to look beyond military casualties and consider the public health crisis that faced emancipated slaves in the years following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Estimates show that at least a fourth of the four million former slaves got sick or died between 1863 and 1870, including at least 60,000 who
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The boy and his family traveled to a Union camp in Chattanooga Tennessee, where his father had enlisted, and was promised that his family would be taken care of. The rest of his family was sent to a camp in Nashville where they experienced starvation, and the relentless smallpox epidemic that took the life of their mother. So the kids were sent back to Chattanooga in the winter of 1863 where the unnamed boy suffered from frostbite, so bad that he would have to have a double leg amputation. Downs then pauses to reflect on just how bad the former slave boy’s living conditions must have been in order for a doctor to suggest that his frostbite was so serious that he has to loose both of this legs. Downs provides this story, which is representative of the problems that former slaves experienced during the emancipation period. He shows that emancipation did not bring immediate freedom because illness and death stood in the way of that …show more content…
These unfathomably horrid environments along with lack of employment propagated disease outbreak. Downs then traces the formation of the Medical Division of the Freedman’s Bureau. He exposes how Freedman’s Hospitals were not systematically built throughout the south, but often were established in response to a specific outbreak or medical emergency. He then presents the smallpox epidemic, the most devastating medical crisis that erupted through the postwar south. He examines the population of freed slaves who were most affected by the outbreak, mostly women, the elderly, and the disabled. These groups of people were not the most physically capable of the freed slaves, and this led to them not being able to acquire agricultural jobs. This was so because the war had physically devastated the south, destroying a plethora of plantations, resulting in less available jobs. Downs concludes by charting the demise of the Medical Division of the Freedman’s Bureau, and portraying how the freed people voiced their health concerns to local and state

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