Black Maternal Health: Historical and Reproductive Justice Reckonings

Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens & Dr. Lynn Roberts

New York Academy of Medicine & the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Thursday, October 1, 2020 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Please register for this online event.

This event looks at the profound health inequities around giving birth, further laid bare by the COVID pandemic. Discussions with experts will include how slavery and the history of reproductive medicine intersect, the impact that medical racism has on Black birthing people from slavery to freedom, engagement in the national reproductive justice movement, and recent efforts to address racial inequities in maternal mortality and morbidity in NYC.

Featured presentations are by historian Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, author of Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology, and public health activist and scholar Dr. Lynn Roberts, co-editor and contributing author of the anthology, Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique. Our moderator will be Chanel L. Porchia Albert, Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Ancient Song Doula Services. Singer/songwriter, actress, poet, educator, and writer Lacresha Berry will provide an artistic performance at the start of the event. 

This event is part of the Consortium's Perspectives program, which provides discussions with leading scholars, interviews with recent authors, and archival highlights from the exceptional collections of Consortium member institutions. A recording of this event will become part of our ever-growing library of videos, podcasts, and essays on the history of science, technology, and medicine, along with resources for further learning and opportunities to engage in ongoing conversations. 

This event is held in partnership with The New York Academy of Medicine, as part of its Race & Health series. The Race & Health series is about envisioning a more just society, examining the big social, economic and systemic issues that keep people of all races from enjoying a healthy life. The series sheds light on the historical legacy of these issues and their modern-day challenges and tries to determine how we can, together, create a more equitable and healthy future for all.


Deirdre Cooper Owens is the Linda and Charles Wilson Professor in the History of Medicine and Director of the Humanities in Medicine program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is an Organization of American Historians' (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer, a past American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Research Fellow, and has won a number of prestigious honors for her scholarly and advocacy work in reproductive and birthing justice. A popular public speaker, Dr. Cooper Owens has spoken widely across the U.S. and Europe. She has published articles, essays, book chapters, and think pieces on a number of issues that concern African American experiences and reproductive justice. Her first book, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology (Univ. of Georgia Press, 2017) won the 2018 Darlene Clark Hine Book Award from the Organization of American Historians as the best book written in African American women's and gender history.


Lynn Roberts earned a BS in human development from Howard University (1984) and a PhD in Human Services Studies from Cornell University (1991). She is Associate Dean of Student Affairs & Alumni Relations and a tenured faculty member in the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. Prior to CUNY, she oversaw the development, implementation and evaluation of several programs for women and youth in NYC. She is an emeritus board member of the Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and co-edited the anthology, Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique (Feminist Press, November 2017).