Scott Saunders is a rising senior at George Mason University, with a major in history and a minor in legal studies. He is part of a team of eight student researchers from three Virginia universities that contributed to a project on the history of tuberculosis in the United States. Part of the team's research was recently published on the website of the American Historical Association, the largest association of professional historians in the country. Below is the beginning of the blog post; you can read the rest at the AHA website.
On February 9, 1906, at the age of 33, Paul Laurence Dunbar died at his home in Dayton, Ohio, of consumption (the common name for tuberculosis in this era). Tuberculosis was the single greatest cause of death between 1870 and 1910, claiming three to four million estimated lives in the United States, including Dunbar’s. Although his case was not unique in age, length of illness, or even cause of death, Dunbar’s fame as an African American poet and the reporting on his death are unique in their capacity to illustrate consumption’s effect on society at the turn of the 20th century. Taking advantage of online newspaper archives, we built and analyzed an online dataset of tuberculosis deaths to measure, visualize, and narrate the stories of lives lost to consumption. Using both traditional and nonconventional historical methods of inquiry, our analysis explored the intersection between race and tuberculosis and asked how African Americans, like Dunbar, and other minorities experienced tuberculosis.
September 13, 2016