Paul Braff

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Temple University

2017 to 2018
Research Fellow

Enthroning Health: The National Negro Health Movement and the Fight to Control Public Health Policy in the African American Community, 1915-1950

This project examines changes in, and challenges to, medical authority and public health in African American communities through National Negro Health Week, a public health campaign between 1915 and 1950 that Booker T. Washington launched. The goal is to show how African American definitions of health differed from those of the medical establishment and the implications such differences created for the social control over, and empowerment of, African Americans. The Week’s emphasis on cleanliness permitted African Americans of all classes to declare themselves healthy without consulting a physician. However, when the U.S. Public Health Service took over the Week in 1933, it repositioned the medical establishment as the ultimate arbiter of African American health, restoring its power over black bodies. In a country where there is still a wide racial disparity in participation in, and access to, the public health establishment, understanding the Week can help illuminate how race and health intersect today.

Read more about Paul's research here.