Grave Robbing, Black Cemeteries, and the American Medical School


American medical education widely expanded in the nineteenth century, and with it came a demand for cadavers that exceeded availability. In the eighteenth century, dissection was a punishment for executed criminals, and the associated stigma meant few were donating their bodies to science. So medical students, and the people who supplied them, turned to grave robbing. And those burial grounds most often victimized were for the poor and marginalized.

As reported by the Daily Progress, the University of Virginia released the final report of its President’s Commission on Slavery. UVA is one of several American universities reexamining its ties to slavery, including its history as a medical school. The report states that those “submitted to the anatomists’ knife at the University…

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