In celebration of Black History Month, our museum highlights Black pioneers' trailblazing contributions to Western medicine, addresses health disparities facing our communities and encourages healing through education.

Midwives, Doulas and Birth-workers

Doulas and midwives are both birth workers who provide what's called "continuous labor support" in hospitals, birthing centers, and at home births. Doulas provide non-medical guidance and emotional support, while midwives provide medical care.

Hear directly from community-based midwives and doulas on their role in providing patient-centered care that improves the outcomes and experiences of birthing people.

A photo of a white uniform Midwife dress

The Historical Significance of Doulas and Midwives

We may overlook the benefits of having a prepared maternity ward staffed with licensed doctors and nurses today, but these vital tools and personnel were not (and in many remote rural locations still aren’t) available to everyone. Before the 1930’s women typically gave birth at home surrounded by relatives, female friends and midwives.
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Black and white image of Martha Sapp holding a baby, both lying in bed. Sapp lays in a bed, covered in blankets and sheets, smiling, open-mouthed. Her proper right hand holds the proper left hand of her child. Her head rest on a pillow. She and the baby take up most of the image, diagonally, from the upper left to the lower right. the baby lays eyes closed and hands raised to its face. The child is wrapped in a striped, plaid blanket.

What is a Doula?: A Modern Maternal Discussion

In observance of this year’s African American History month theme, Black Health and Wellness, the National Museum of African American History & Culture is spotlighting timeless professions of Midwives and Doulas. 

Read the Story about What is a Doula?: A Modern Maternal Discussion

Health & Wellness Pioneers

These trailblazers broke barriers and shattered stereotypes — and went on to conduct research, discover treatments and provide leadership that improved the health of millions.

Searchable Museum - Without Consent

Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed and treated for cervical cancer by Dr. Howard Jones at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. He discovered a large malignant tumor on her cervix and took a sample of her cells without her consent.
Searchable Museum screenshot featuring Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks' Immortal Cells

Unbeknownst to Henrietta Lacks at the time of her death in 1951, doctors used her cells for research that ultimately impacted the study of the human body. The HeLa cells, named for the first two letters of her first and last names, were used to develop the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, and cloning; to study the human genome, immunology and infectious disease. Even today, HeLa cells were used to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.

Visit the Site about Henrietta Lacks' Immortal Cells

Mental Health

While the experience of being Black in America varies tremendously, there are shared cultural factors that play a role in helping define mental health and supporting well-being, resiliency and healing.

A Seat at the Table: Racial Disparities and Health

Cindy George of Texas Medical Center's TMC Pulse Magazine moderates a discussion between health administrator and attorney Martin Hamlette and professor Craig Fryer on their efforts to end the racial disparities.

24 Hours in A Time of Change

On December 11, 2020, near the end of a year of upheaval and change, ten Smithsonian museums and units took a snapshot of a day in history. The event became a chance to document a day in the life of our nation—to consider, together, where we had been and where we were going.

Solutions and Self Care

“Self-care” refers to a wide range of practices and activities we engage in to care for ourselves (most often without the consultation of a medical professional). These practices address the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives.


Self-care is what we deliberately do to care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Our well-being is critical to sustaining our work in dismantling racism. Let’s take care of ourselves – and each other.
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Diet and Health

Research shows the benefits of a plant-based diet in fighting heart disease, diabetes and cancer. See our Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook for recommendations, and learn more about Sweet Home Café’s New Executive Chef, Ramin Coles.

Chef Ramin Coles, Executive Chef of the Museum’s Sweet Home Café, demonstrate three essential recipes that will bring luck and happy bellies in 2022. During the presentation, Chef Ramin and Curator Joanne Hyppolite, will discuss the historical and cultural significance of the three prepared dishes: collard greens, Hoppin’ John, and cornbread.

Baby Kale Salad pictured on plate. Wooden table in background .


In African American households, kale has traditionally been cooked long and low, with a piece of seasoning meat. Today, it is just as likely to turn up in a great-tasting salad like this one.

View the Recipe about BABY KALE SALAD

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Untitled (Sharing first moments)

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Robert Galbraith
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Untitled (Bonding)

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Robert Galbraith
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Untitled (Patiently Watching)

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Robert Galbraith
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Untitled (Next Day Continuing Care)

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Robert Galbraith
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