Facing Historical Realities of Infant Mortality

A study of life expectancy in the antebellum Mississippi indicates that a 20-year-old Negro slave could on average expect to live for 17.5 more years. But in Mississippi, as in all slave states, the difference between black-and-white life expectancy changed considerably when infants were included in the statistics. Among white infants the mortality was distressingly high; among slaves  it was fantastic. By the Civil War, the white and Negro populations were almost equal, but slave infants died at a rate of 2:1. In Mississippi, one analysis numbered 2772  Negro infant deaths in one year compared to 1315 for whites.

Everywhere in the south the Negro infant mortality rate was more than double that of whites. In one particularly disturbing account from Georgia, nine slave women were interviewed who together and had 12 miscarriages and 55 live births. 29 of the children were dead before one year.

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