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Drapetomania – A mental illness I would have died to have had | Chocolate City: The Best African American Blog
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Drapetomania – A mental illness I would have died to have had


by Charles Mombo

Before Sunday, I had never heard the word ‘Drapetomania’. While listening to Chicago Progressive Talk Radio 820 am and driving down Lake Shore Drive and enjoying the peace and tranquility provided by the magnificent sunsets overlooking Lake Michigan, my peaceful thoughts suddenly went into a tailspin after the radio host explained what the wordDrapetomania’ meant.

According to the 820am host, ‘Drapetomania’ was a pseudo-scientific mental illness first proposed by a white medical doctor from Mississippi called Samuel Cartwright in 1851. Cartwright wrote of the so-called illness in his book, "Diseases and Pecularities of the Negro Race".

According to Cartwright, ‘Drapetomania’ was an illness that affected slaves and caused them to run away from their so-called ‘white masters’. Drapetes is the Greek word for runaway slaves.

It is said that Cartwright’s solution for the curing of the illness Drapetomania’ is to keep slaves in a submissive state and treat them like children, with "care, kindness, attention, and humanity to prevent and cure them from running away." If they became dissatisfied with their condition, they should be whipped as prevention against running away. In describing his theory and cure for drapetomania, Cartwright hypocritically relied on passages of the Holy Bible to deal with slavery.

As I listened to the NPR’s host talk about Cartwright’s solution for the curing of Drapetomania,’ I started to wonder if Cartwright might have been a madly deranged and a completely sick Mur' Fucker (if I may borrow the phrase from Indiana Pacer's  Roy Hibbert).

Whatever the case, I am convinced from Cartwright’s style of writing, he could have been the literary double for the bigot and racist idiot who wrote the Willie Lynch letter.


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