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Honoring Grand Midwives--It's Black History Month!

The hands of black midwives have always saved lives! We honor the grand midwives of the past, present, and future.

Alabama has a rich history of traditional black midwives, who saved hundreds of lives in the Deep South. These brave, selfless, hero-midwives cared for women in conditions of extreme poverty and racism--often helping women no one else would care for. See history through these midwives' eyes in books such as Motherwit and Listen To Me Good.

In 1976, Alabama passed a law with the intent to outlaw traditional midwives. Margaret Charles Smith and about 150 other black traditional midwives were told they would be jailed if they continued to work as midwives. Prosecuting and eradicating Alabama midwives continues to have disastrous consequences for Alabama's mothers and infants. (See: Alabama Perinatal Health Act, Annual Progress Report 2011 )

On July 1, 2011, The Alabama Department of Public Health issued a map, finding that thirty six counties in Alabama lacked obstetric services. In other states licensed, community midwives, such as Jennie Joseph in Florida, help fill the gap and make a positive difference in outcomes. The state of Alabama still refuses to license community midwives to practice out-of-hospital in homes. There are also no free standing birth centers in the state. This means many Alabama women find it difficult to access appropriate maternity education and care.

At the end of this month, we're bringing the amazing midwife Jennie Joseph herself to Alabama for a speaking tour to discuss The JJ WAY®--a model for reducing disparities and improving outcomes in perinatal health. She'll be sharing the film Bringin' In Da Spirit, which tells the history of black midwives. The International Center For Traditional Childbearing (a non-profit African centered organization, created to promote the health of women and their families, and to train Black women aspiring to become midwives) will also be promoted at these events! Check back soon for details!

The Alabama Birth Coalition is dedicated to honoring the memory of Alabama's grand midwives, and supporting its present and future midwives. We recognize we have many miles to go before Alabama honors midwives as the heroes they were, are, and will be. We declare that Alabama mothers still need and deserve community midwives. We hope you'll make the following resources a part of your celebration of Black History Month:

Video: The Legacy The Black Midwife (6-part Series)

Video: Alabama Birth Stories: Part One

Video: Alabama Birth Stories: Part Two

Video: Birth Right

Film: All My Babies: A Midwife's Own Story

Film: Bringin' In Da Spirit

Books: Motherwit and Listen To Me Good

Article: The First Graduating Class of the Tuskegee School of Midwifery

Organization: The International Center For Traditional Childbearing

Organization: Jennie Joseph, CPM, LM

Organization: National Association of Birth Centers of Color (NABCC)

Organization: Alabama Midwives Alliance