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Book and Media Reviews
March 8, 2006


Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;295(10):1190-1194. doi:10.1001/jama.295.10.1190

This is a fascinating, readable, and bittersweet book on the life of Solomon Carter Fuller (1872-1953), the first African American psychiatrist. The bitter comes from the story of the life of Dr Fuller's grandfather in slavery during the early 1800s. However, there is also a little sweetness, as we learn that the grandfather could buy himself free, along with his wife, who was an indentured servant.

Remarkably, by 1830, more than 200 “free Negro” households existed in Norfolk, Va, but, as the author points out, after the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, many so-called freedoms afforded to slaves and “free Negroes” were severely curtailed. To retain their freedom, the family of Fuller's grandfather moved in 1852 from Norfolk to Liberia, numbering among the 18 000 black American immigrants who were to settle there between 1820 and 1867.