Gender, Race, and Immunity in the Spanish-Cuban-American War
This chapter examines the role Black women volunteers played as immune nurses in the Spanish-Cuban-American War. To enlist black women’s care labor in the Cuban conflict, army physicians relied on the myth of the plantation nurse, a figure whose biological and thus racial immunity from yellow fever recalled forms of gendered subordination and sacrifice ritualized in U.S. slavery. Black leaders like Namahyoka Curtis helped to recruit immune nurses in New Orleans in the hope that their performances of patriotic service would secure greater citizenship rights for the greater African American community. The experiences of the nurses before, during, and after the conflict offer a counter historiography of the war, and shows how Black women self-consciously presented themselves as matrons of respectability whose labor and sacrifice entitled them to fair and equal treatment under the law.
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