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Unpacking Our History Lecture: Disease, Slavery, and Politics in New Orleans

Antebellum New Orleans sat at the heart of America’s slave and cotton kingdoms. But it was also the nation’s “necropolis,” with epidemic yellow fever killing thousands each summer and leaving countless more orphaned, widowed, and bereaved. Olivarius shows how this city became stratified between the “acclimated” and “unacclimated,” why these immunity labels mattered, and how yellow fever was mobilized by white elites to further divide and exploit the population.

Kathryn Olivarius is a prizewinning historian of slavery, medicine, and disease whose writing and research have been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American, and the Washington Post. She is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University.