By Kathryn Olivarius,

Book cover of Necropolis: Disease, Power, and Capitalism in the Cotton Kingdom

Book description

Disease is thought to be a great leveler of humanity, but in antebellum New Orleans acquiring immunity from the scourge of yellow fever magnified the brutal inequities of slave-powered capitalism.

Antebellum New Orleans sat at the heart of America's slave and cotton kingdoms. It was also where yellow fever epidemics…

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2 authors picked Necropolis as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Necropolis describes how the yellow fever shaped New Orleans society in the 1800s.

While the fever was killing tens of thousands of people for almost two centuries from the founding of the city in 1718 until the last yellow fever epidemic in 1905, giving its victims horrible deaths in which they cried blood and vomited tar-like bile in the process, the disease helped preserve the city’s Creole culture by killing off a large proportion of immigrants to the city who were more susceptible than native-born New Orleans.

Before reading this book, I had no idea that being “acclimated” to yellow…

I was on a conference panel with Kathryn a few years ago and got to hear her present part of what would become her book Necropolis, and I was already hooked. Nineteenth-century New Orleans was marked by both yellow fever and its opposition to public health measures that might have made the city safer. Instead, white Americans who survived the terrible disease (and Olivarius describes it in all of its nastiness), developed “immunocapital” giving them further opportunities to enrich themselves in the bustling port city. For those who were Black and enslaved, yellow fever meant either death or further…

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