11 Nov 2012

Birthing Justice – Saving Our Lives:

Black Women, Pregnancy and Childbirth

Edited by Julia C. Oparah, Shanelle K. Matthews and Alicia D. Bonaparte.

A project of Black Women Birthing Justice

Birthing Justice – Saving Our Lives will be an anthology of critical essays and personal testimonies that explore African American, African, Caribbean and diasporic women’s experiences of childbirth from a radical social justice perspective. We seek writings by midwives, doulas, natural childbirth advocates, reproductive rights activists, moms and moms-to-be, sociologists, feminist and Africana studies scholars, and historians that document state control and medical violence against black pregnant women, revitalize our birthing traditions, and honor and record empowering and sacred birth experiences. We are particularly interested in essays that document activism and resistance.

Women in Africa and the African diaspora have rich traditions of midwifery and “motherwit”, rooted in the Southern states of the U.S., and in Africa and the Caribbean, that have empowered many thousands of women to give birth naturally without control and supervision by (male) medical professionals. Yet almost a century of scapegoating of “granny” and immigrant midwives, and aggressive efforts to control childbirth by the medical industry, has left many black women in the U.S. unaware of these traditions and unable to access alternatives to a medicalized and often disempowering birth experience.

Far from improving maternal and infant health, the massive expansion of physician-supervised hospital births has arguably resulted in extremely poor maternal outcomes in the U.S., when compared to other industrialized nations. Black women in particular have maternal mortality rates 3 to 4 times that of white women. In Africa and the Caribbean, the adoption of a colonial obstetric model has also undermined women’s indigenous birthing knowledge. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world due to a complex mix of factors, however development approaches to this problem frequently involve training of midwives/sage-femmes in contested Western medical practices.

Black women’s experience of the medicalization and regulation of childbirth is unique, because it has been characterized by both malign neglect and by overt state coercion. Exclusion and control have not been met passively, but have spurred both grassroots activism and covert resistance within communities in Africa and the diaspora.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

Granny midwives and black immigrant midwives stories
Indigenous midwifery knowledge in Africa and the Caribbean
Childbirth and midwifery knowledge in immigrant communities
The eradication of lay midwifery and granny midwives
Founding of Black women’s birthing centers
Doulas’ journeys
Black women and the homebirth movement
Black women and the natural childbirth movement
Black women’s political/legislative activism
Medical violence
Strategies for addressing maternal mortality in the U.S., Africa and the Caribbean
Personal testimonies of empowering and traumatic birth experiences
Medical homophobia and black LGBT experiences
Reproductive technology, surrogacy and the role of science in reconfiguring birth
Transmen’s pregnancy and birth journeys
Ableism and birth experiences of black women with disabilities
Teenage and older women’s birth stories
Birth mother and adoption “triad” birth stories
Health insurance/Health care activism and maternal health
Racism and classism in hospitals and the medical profession
Capitalism and the medical industrial complex
Globalization, poverty and maternal outcomes
Birth experiences of women in prison
Shackling of pregnant women
Grassroots organizing strategies, challenges and successes

Please send a short description of your essay (250 words) and biographical statement (150 words) by September 1, 2012. All submissions should be submitted to

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