Carville's Cure: Leprosy, Stigma, and the Fight for Justice

THU, SEP 10, 2020 (53:43)

Acclaimed broadcast journalist Pam Fessler writes about the largely forgotten history of leprosy in the United States – its impact on patients and their families, doctors, and, particularly, the swampy bayou town of Carville, Louisiana, where a “leprosarium” was established in 1894.

Carville evolved into a nexus for research and “treatment” that came at a huge personal cost to liberty as patients were stripped of their names, their rights, and their dignity. Understood today to be one of the least infectious diseases in the world, leprosy, now called Hansen’s disease, instilled a pandemic-sized level of fear and reaction from public health authorities well into the 20th century. Fessler discusses her chronicle of how America treated, contained, and demonized its sufferers before wiser heads prevailed.

This event is presented by American Ancestors/NEHGS together with the Boston Public Library and the State Library of Massachusetts as part of the American Stories, Inspiration Today author series.

+ BIO: Laura Kolbe

Dr. Laura Kolbe is a physician, writer, and book critic. She is an assistant professor of medicine and a fellow in the Division of Medical Ethics at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

+ BIO: Pam Fessler

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR’s National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.

In her reporting at NPR, Fessler does stories on homelessness, hunger, affordable housing, and income inequality. She reports on what non-profit groups, the government, and others are doing to reduce poverty and how those efforts are working. Her poverty reporting was recognized with a 2011 First Place National Headliner Award.

Fessler also covers elections and voting, including efforts to make voting more accessible, accurate, and secure. She has done countless stories on everything from the debate over state voter identification laws to Russian hacking attempts and long lines at the polls.

American Ancestors
American Stories, Inspiration Today