Shameful Moments in History:
Drapetomania and Dysaethesia Aethiopica
Samuel A. Cartwright(1793-1863) was an American physician who in 1851 proposed a theory for the cause of laziness among slaves. He described the condition Dysaethesia Aethiopica.
According to Cartwright, he felt that dysaethesia aethiopica was “easily curable, if treated on sound physiological principles.”Insensitivity of the skin was one symptom of the disease, so the skin should be stimulated:
“The best means to stimulate the skin is, first, to have the patient well washed with warm water and soap; then, to anoint it all over in oil, and to slap the oil in with a broad leather strap; then to put the patient to some hard kind of work in the sunshine”
According to Cartwright, after the prescribed “course of treatment” the slave will “look grateful and thankful to the white man whose compulsory power … has restored his sensation and dispelled the mist that clouded his intellect.”
Today his theory is regarded as the “edifice of scientific racism”. According to the United Nations convention, superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable,
socially unjust and dangerous, and there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere.