The fight for universal health care has a long history in the United States with many individuals and organizations incorporating the right to decent healthcare into their larger struggle for social justice and human rights.
One such organization was the Black Panther Party. We remember the Black Panther Party today as the most potent symbol of organizational militant Black power in the 70s. But few know the emphasis that the party put on healthcare, through its network of free clinics, its fight to end medical discrimination, and its education campaign on genetic diseases that African Americans are more prone to.
Nearly 48 years after the founding of the Black Panther Party, that legacy of healthcare activism is documented in a book by Alondra Nelson called Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination.
In it, Nelson tells the story of how the Black Panther Party and its various leaders, placed such a strong emphasis on their community’s access to medical care that they eventually made the demand for free healthcare for all people, an explicit part of their ten-point program.
GUEST: Alondra Nelson, Associate Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, where she also holds an appointment in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She is coeditor of Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life and Genetics and the Unsettled?Past: The Collision between DNA, Race, and History. Her new book is entitled, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination