Sick from Freedom

By Jim Downs,

Book cover of Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction

Book description

Bondspeople who fled from slavery during and after the Civil War did not expect that their flight toward freedom would lead to sickness, disease, suffering, and death. But the war produced the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century, and as historian Jim Downs reveals in this groundbreaking volume, it…

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Why read it?

1 author picked Sick from Freedom as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Jim Downs offers an essential corrective to the view of emancipation as a kind of liberal or progressive “triumphalist narrative.” Downs approaches the illness and death that the freed people suffered during and after the Civil War as a major public health crisis. He does not question the historical necessity or the morality of emancipation, but he shows that the disruptions and chaos that attended emancipation—often exacerbated by federal policy—also resulted in immeasurable human suffering and countless deaths. Historians have long recognized that emancipation was a messy affair. But what I find especially compelling is that Downs raises the question…

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