Nursing history books from the ECBCNHI library

A Virtual Roundtable on the History of Black Midwives

February 15, 2022

4 p.m. - 6 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on Zoom

In recognition of Black History Month, the Bjoring Center is pleased to host a panel discussion of distinguished scholars, featuring Dr. Wangui Muigai, a historian of medicine at Brandeis University who is writing a book on the history of Black infant mortality in the U.S.; Dr. Michelle Drew, a practicing midwife and chair of the American College of Nurse Midwives Caucus for Reproductive Justice and Birth Equity; and Dr. Gertrude Fraser, associate professor in UVA's Department of Anthropology and author of African American Midwifery in the South: Dialogues of Birth, Race, and Memory.

Program Details

“Ancient Wisdom, Resistance and Reclamation: The Historical Contributions of African and African American Midwives 1619 to the Present”

by Michelle Drew, DNP, MPH, CNM, FNP-C, C-EFM


“Trust, Training, and Tradition: Black Midwifery in the Early 20th Century”

by Wangui Muigai, PhD

This presentation examines the contributions of a range of Black women including midwives, health officials, nurses, and pregnant women as they worked to ensure the health of Black mothers and newborns in the early 20th century, and the challenges they faced in their efforts. The talk considers the legacies of this moment on the birth and reproductive experiences of Black Americans today.


“Africa American Doulas: Carrying on the Tradition, Navigating Spaces of Care and Exploitation”

by Gertrude J. Fraser, PhD

This presentation will explore emerging work from primarily feminist scholars about African American doulas especially in urban communities who are caught in between the desire to serve their clients of color who are at higher risk for mortality and serious illness during pregnancy and the need for a living wage. Further, I will discuss how health officials may place doulas front and center in intervention strategies to reduce and maternal mortality while at the same time fail to monetarily value their contributions or to invest significantly in ameliorating root causes of reproductive health care disparities. My goal is to engage in dialogue about how doulas may be valorized for their devotion to provide culturally salient care for women of color, on the one hand, and on the other be subject to different forms of exploitation.

For Zoom details, contact the center manager at mks2d@virginia.edu.