Health Care: Harlem



When South Carolina's migrants settled in Harlem, they found an emerging black medical establishment centered in Harlem hospital and, over time, a host of intermediary agencies. Yet many of them remained committed to traditional folk medicine. They obtained the remedies to which they were accustomed with the help of "green markets" and the local druggists who took over the function of the "root doctors." The factors of long held tradition, self sufficiency, and marginalization remained.

Over time, due largely to the work of community health agencies focused on the public school population, the descendants of South Carolina's migrants to Harlem have been absorbed into the medical mainstream, and the practice of traditional folk medicine is dying with the last of the original migrants. New trends in the field of medical pharmacology are, however, causing renewed interest in (and respect for) the use of herbal remedies. For the first time, the medical establishment is attempting to learn from traditionalists rather than convert them. It is our hope that while time remains, the descendants of the migrants will learn from their elders the medical traditions and practices of the South Carolina low country.





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