A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People...
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In a widely-read pamphlet distributed on the heels of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey accused the black community of profiteering from the disease and of plundering the houses of the sick.
In response to Carey's libel against their community, which by then was already in a fourth edition, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones published A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia in the Year 1793 and a Refutation of Some Censures, Thrown upon them in some late Publications.
They noted that "Mr. Carey's first, second and third editions... in all probability, have been read by thousands that will never read his fourth -- consequently, any alteration he may hereafter make... cannot have the desired effect, or atone for the past; therefore we apprehend it necessary to publish our thoughts on the occasion.
The Narrative documented the courageous actions of the blacks who dedicated themselves to fighting the disease and included a meticulous accounting of payments and expenses.
It was also an indictment of both whites who fled the city -- including Carey himself -- and those who remained but turned their backs on the sick. Jones and Allen speculated that Carey had "made more money by the sale of his "scraps" than a dozen of the greatest extortioners among the black nurses.".
Image Credit: From the collections of the Library of Congress
The Yellow Fever epidemic
A Short Account of the Malignant Fever...
Extracts from journal of Elizabeth Drinker
French West Indian refugees in Philadelphia
Julie Winch on Jones' and Allen's response to Carey
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