Photo of Dr Stephen Kenny

Dr Stephen Kenny PhD FHEA

Senior Lecturer, 19th and 20th century North American History History


    Personal Statement

    I have published extensively on the histories of race and medicine under American slavery and Jim Crow and am particularly interested in histories of hospitals, anatomy, and human experiments. I am currently working on a monograph - 'Before Tuskegee: racism, power and the culture of medicine under slavery and Jim Crow' - examining human experimentation in the United States before and after the Civil War. This book will explore and reveal: (i) historiographical myths of medical practice under slavery and racial aparthied; (ii) the deep-rooted racist nature of medical education, research and practice under slavery and Jim Crow; (iii) the career opportunities, social status and financial rewards that so-called 'negro medicine' brought for so-called white doctors; (iv) the enormous scale and intensity of the medical profession's exploitation of enslaved subjects, which only increased after slavery; (v) and Black patient experiences in the face of these pressures.

    Together with Professor Vanessa Northington Gamble (George Washington University), I am also working on an edited volume that examines the 'Histories, Myths and Legacies of [the racist, paternalistic, exploitative, surgeon-enslaver] J. Marion Sims' life and medical career.

    See the short report linked below for thoughts on Sims' troubling presence in public space:

    My research on slave hospitals in the American South was used to develop “an entire portion of the award-winning travelling exhibition”, ‘Purchased Lives: New Orleans and the Domestic Slave, 1808-1865,’ which opened at the Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) on Royal Street in New Orleans in March 2015:
    Purchased Lives: New Orleans in the Domestic Slave Trade, 1808-1865 (exhibition)

    Further, below is a link to a collaborative New Orleans public radio program broadcast (Tripod: New Orleans at 300) on Touro Infirmary's First Admission Book and it's role in servicing the domestic slave trade:

    Poet Dorothy Lehane responded to my research on issues relating to the history of professional medicine’s exploitation of enslaved subjects with chronic illnesses and disability, as key source material for a new poetic work:part nostrum part vermifuge

    My research on human experimentation and medical racism informed the agenda set on multiple episodes of ‘Information is the Best Medicine’, a programme broadcast on WURD Radio: the only African-American owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania:Information is the Best Medicine

    The Conversation and Buzzfeed reports linked also below highlight many of the core themes and issues explored in the larger 'Before Tuskegee' project:

    The use of the enslaved as medical specimens:

    The enslaved and medical experimentation in the American South:Cruel medical experiments were widespread in the American South

    For hope and inspiration, watch this recent documentary, 'True Justice', by a selfless human being who should be President of the U.S. (Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative):True Justice documentary

    Prizes or Honours

    • Stanley Jackson Award (Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 2012)

    Funded Fellowships

    • Reynolds Associates Research Fellowship in the History of the Health Sciences (The Historical Collections Unit of the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham , 2013)
    • Franklin International Scholars Programme Fellow (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, University of Georgia, 2012)
    • Watson-Brown Foundation Short Term Visiting Fellowship (Institute for Southern Studies, University of South Carolina, 2009)

    Other Personal Distinctions

    • Dark Medicine and the genesis of Life and Limb (Life and Limb: the First Encounter, Liverpool University, 2015)
    • 'Slave health, negro physicians, and infirmaries for the enslaved in the antebellum South' (British American Nineteenth-Century Historians , 2008)
    • Visiting Research Fellow (Institute for Southern Studies, University of South Carolina, 1999)
    • Visiting Research Fellow (Institute for Southern Studies, University of South Carolina, 1996)