African American Folk Healing



Cure a nosebleed by holding a silver quarter on the back of the neck. Treat an earache with sweet oil drops. Wear plant roots to keep from catching colds. Within many African American families, these kinds of practices continue today, woven into the fabric of black culture, often communicated through women. Such folk practices shape the concepts about healing that are diffused throughout African American communities and are expressed in myriad ways, from faith healing to making a mojo.
Stephanie Y. Mitchem presents a fascinating study of African American healing. She sheds light on a variety of folk practices and traces their development from the time of slavery through the Great Migrations. She explores how they have continued into the present and their relationship with alternative medicines. Through conversations with black Americans, she demonstrates how herbs, charms, and rituals continue folk healing performances. Mitchem shows that these practices are not simply about healing; they are linked to expressions of faith, delineating aspects of a holistic epistemology and pointing to disjunctures between African American views of wellness and illness and those of the culture of institutional medicine.

Product Details

New York University Press
Publish Date
July 01, 2007
6.09 X 0.49 X 9.01 inches | 0.63 pounds

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About the Author

Stephanie Mitchem is associate professor of religious studies and women's studies at the University of South Carolina. She is the author of Introducing Womanist Theology, as well as African American Women Tapping Power and Spiritual Wellness.


"An exploration of the history and practices of black healers and healing illuminating the vital cultural, intellectual, and spiritual expression of a people. This fine multidisciplinary work draws deeply and thoughtfully from the experiences and words of its subjects, offering alternative visions of human creativity, resistance, and community."
-Yvonne Chireau, author of Black Magic: Religion and the African-American Conjuring Tradition

"African American Folk Healing is an insightful work that places folk healing within the context of larger spiritual, political, and intellectual movements. It illuminates the interconnectedness among activism, medicine, gender studies, folklore, and theology that influence the ways African American female healers work and live."
-The Journal of African American History

"Persuasively argued. . . . A fascinating study that makes a real contribution to discussions of health, wellness and faith in America."-Publishers Weekly

"A readable book well suited for most academic libraries."