Slave Healers in the Antebellum South: Background information when reading The Healing

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The Healing

A Novel

by Jonathan Odell

The Healing by Jonathan Odell
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2012, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2012, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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Beyond the Book:
Slave Healers in the Antebellum South

Slave Healers in the Antebellum South

Polly Shine's arrival at the Satterfield's plantation is a remarkable sight to the slaves in Jonathan Odell's The Healing as she was a "bought" slave, not bred on the plantation, and she was a costly purchase. Their astonishment continues when, soon after her arrival, she starts to give orders regarding the slaves' health and the Master goes along with them. While slave healers were relatively common in the antebellum South, it was unusual for an owner to encourage one. According to Working Cures: Healing, Health and Power on Southern Slave Plantations (which Odell says he relied on heavily for his research) white doctors usually treated plantation slaves. Indeed some doctors specialized in slaves just as a vet today might specialize in treating livestock; and just like a farm vet today, a doctor treating a slave would focus his attention on the slave-owner's business objectives. In short, the doctor's priorities were to increase endurance, ...

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