The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Arboviruses in Historic Natchez: Genetic and Socio-Cultural Factors in Mortality Disparities


Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida

Saturday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

This project will assess epidemiological patterns of arboviruses in historic Natchez, Mississippi during the nineteenth and first decade of the twentieth century in regard to racial disparities in mortality rates. Using the sexton records of the Natchez City Cemetery, information on 19,000 deaths between 1822 and 1909 was analyzed by race and age in order to examine Arboviruses mortalities related to yellow fever, malaria, and dengue fever. In the existing literature on the American South in the 19th century, there is a preconceived notion that throughout the South thousands of Black slaves and freedmen, mostly adults, were dying due to disease transmitted by mosquitos or arboviruses. In Natchez, however, this was not the case, and two predictable trends proved contrary to this notion based on race and age. First, arboviruses accounted for 9.1% of the total mortalities over the 87 year period in the White population while only 1.3% in the Black population. Secondly, Black children were more susceptible to arboviruses than White children. In 1890 of the total mortalities related to Malaria, 27% were Black children while White children accounted for 2.7%. While these are just a few statistics, they repeat throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. From these conclusions, additional factors, both socio-cultural and genetic will be discussed in how such disparities both propagated the slave trade and struck fear of slave revolts.


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