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

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  • Posted May 19, 2012

    Kudos to Downs - job well done !

    I read Downs's book "Sick from Freedom" not as a historian, but an American who has an interest in our past. The book evoked a roller coaster of emotions for me. The overreaching emotion was one of sorrow for the suffering, not only of the countless individuals free from birth but more importantly all those individuals just freed from slavery by the Emancipation Proclamation.
    I was angered at some of the Federal programs that caused more harm than good, but I was happy to hear of all the charity afforded to the freed people by various organizations and individuals from the North. The author, through snippets of information, was able to bring to life stories of real individuals beyond the statistics. He could achieve this feat only by a painstaking review of voluminous records, which can be seen through his 55 pages of notes and 16 pages of a bibliography.
    I was cheered to see the valiant efforts of a young and struggling medical establishment dealing, not only with the expected consequences of war, but also with the unforeseen consequences of the largest biological crisis of the nineteenth century.
    In the end, Mr. Downs's book is a tribute to the indefatigable human spirit of the freed people who survived all these crises and made our country so much the better for it. In the current debates about health care for the needy and safety nets for the poor, one need only read Downs's book to obtain a unique perspective, as these issues were very much in the forefront during the Civil War and its aftermath.
    The book's epilogue gives a glimpse of Native American suffering in the West and the Southwest. I hope that Downs's future books can paint for us a more detailed picture and appreciation of the Native American plight as this book so vividly has given us a gripping picture of African-American illness and suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Kudos to Downs for a job well done on this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012


    This thorough and original excavation of the archives brings to life not only those forgotten bodies lying by the roadside, those men and women whose struggles often left them fighting for their very lives, as well as their freedom. Too many succumbed to the harsher realities of emancipation, but Downs provides us with an intensely personal and political tale of health and sickness during America's most tumultuous era of radical and racial transformations. A bravado book which changes our appreciation of the Civil War, the peace that followed, and the dynamic shifts which gave Americans their new birth of freedom in the wake of slavery's death knell.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 29, 2012

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    Posted October 31, 2013

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