Health effects of Jim Crow laws linger

Jim Crow laws continue to have negative effects on the health of black Americans, even more than 50 years after being outlawed, according to epidemiologists.

In an April 26 Tonic article, experts cited studies suggesting that early-life exposure to Jim Crow laws—which legalized racial discrimination in Southern U.S. states from the late 1870s through the mid-1960s—can lead to negative health effects decades later.

For example, a recent study by Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that, among U.S. women currently diagnosed with breast cancer, being born in a Jim Crow state heightened black women’s risk of being diagnosed with tumors that have a worse prognosis.

“Understanding health in the United States requires grappling with the history of the country,” Krieger said. “You carry your history with you in your body.”

Read the Tonic article: Jim Crow Laws Are Gone But They’re Still Making Black People Sick

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Jim Crow laws: A contributing factor to more lethal breast cancer among U.S. black women now? (Harvard Chan School feature)

Understanding slavery’s legacy in health and medicine (Harvard Chan School feature)