Race and the Politics of Polio: Warm Springs, Tuskegee, and the March of Dimes
American Journal of Public Health 2007 May; 97(5): 784-795
The Tuskegee Institute opened a polio center in 1941, funded by the March of Dimes. The center's founding was the result of a new visibility of Black polio survivors and the growing political embarrassment around the policy of the Georgia Warm Springs polio rehabilitation center, which Franklin Roosevelt had founded in the 1920s before he became president and which had maintained a Whites-only policy of admission. This policy, reflecting the ubiquitous norm of race-segregated health facilities of the era, was also sustained by a persuasive scientific argument about polio itself: that Blacks were not susceptible to the disease. After a decade of civil rights activism, this notion of polio as a White disease was challenged, and Black health professionals, emboldened by a new integrationist epidemiology, demanded that in polio, as in American medicine at large, health care should be provided regardless of race, color, or creed.
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