Black Midwives

The roots and traditions of African and African American midwifery is ancient.  The International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC), has researched and documented this tradition for nearly twenty years.  In order to empower African and African American women and to work with midwives globally, an accurate history of African Midwifery must be taught.

Midwifery began in Africa where life began and from there it spread around the world. In fact the most notable story of midwives takes place in east Africa in Egypt (Genesis, King James Bible). It was Puah and Shiprah, two Nubian (Black) midwives who disobeyed the Pharaoh and let the Hebrew baby Moses live. Midwives are the original and most common birth attendants in the world for all women.  Learning to be a midwife is an honor, a blessing, a calling, and it is selfless work, and it is the profession of choice.

African peoples from across the African Diaspora have a rich and strong connection to the tradition in midwifery. The word “midwife” in many African languages is synonymous with spiritual healer. The Traditional Midwife’s calling expanded beyond catching babies; she was a healer, a spiritualist, a Public health activist and a community organizer. A woman entered into midwifery through several doors, a calling from God, appointed by the elders, chosen by an older midwife or moved by community need (Monroe, 2012).

 

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“To go back and fetch it”, is to teaching the legacy of the Black midwife. This legacy is essential to empower Black women who embark on becoming midwives and doulas, because it highlights the contributions of African American/Black midwives to US health care system, in her community and spiritual and traditional work to keep the Black community healthy and strong.  And it diverse the face of midwifery to faces of color and gives historical context that midwifery always was for African people, and beginning in Africa.  Shafia M. Monroe, always says, “Black midwives did not experience the witch midwife burning that took place in Europe. Africa always revered their midwives and that reverence was evident in the 20th Century for African American midwives in the US.”   Knowing the legacy of the Black midwife creates resilience to rise above oppressive systems worldwide; because it teaches the truth on the beauty, intelligence, spiritually and skills of the African American midwife.

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