Mississippi Appendectomy

A phrase made popular by Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer referring to involuntary sterilization procedures. Beginning during the heyday of the American eugenics movement (1920s and 1930s), poor black women were made subject to hysterectomies or tubal ligations against their will and without their knowledge. The practice was considered particularly frequent in the Deep South, although coercive sterilization practices took place in many areas of the country and also affected other women of color, women with physical disabilities whom physicians judged to be “unfit to reproduce,” and poor white women as well.

  • Sterilization - Black Women (Mississippi Appendectomy Blog) November 19, 2007.
    During the 1950s in the US South white women faced economic, legal, and medical obstacles to their access to reproductive services such as contraceptives and sterilization procedures. During this same time family planning initiatives targeted women of color (particularly black women) encouraging the use of contraceptives and sterilizations in the interest of reducing the growth of the black population.

  • Medical Apartheid book cover.Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington (Doubleday) 2007.
    Medical Apartheid is the first and only comprehensive history of medical experimentation on African Americans. Starting with the earliest encounters between black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, it details the ways both slaves and freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments conducted without their knowledge—a tradition that continues today within some black populations.

  • Forum: Black Women and the Pill (Family Planning Perspectives) March/April 2000.
    We celebrate the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the oral contraceptive pill in a world considerably different from the one we knew four decades ago. How much of the change we have experienced can be traced, directly or indirectly, to the pill? Since this method first became available in 1960, many articles have been written about its impact on society. Like other publications, Family Planning Perspectives has periodically examined the pill's influence on women's roles and on the separation of reproduction from sexuality. As we begin a new century, however, we believe it is valuable to take a look at several other issues that have—despite their importance—received less attention.