Safe in a Midwife's Hands: Birthing Traditions from Africa to the American South (Paperback)

Safe in a Midwife's Hands: Birthing Traditions from Africa to the American South By Linda Janet Holmes Cover Image

Safe in a Midwife's Hands: Birthing Traditions from Africa to the American South (Paperback)


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After a less-than-positive experience giving birth as a Black woman in the 1970s, Linda Janet Holmes launched a lifetime of work as an activist dedicated to learning about and honoring alternative birth traditions and the Black women behind them. Safe in a Midwife’s Hands brings together what Holmes has gleaned from the countless midwives who have shared with her their experiences, at a time when their knowledge and holistic approaches are essential counterbalances to a medical system that routinely fails Black mothers and babies. Building on work she began in the 1980s, when she interviewed traditional Black midwives in Alabama and Virginia, Holmes traveled to Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya to visit midwives there. In detailing their work, from massage to the uses of medicinal plants to naming ceremonies, she links their voices to those of midwives and doulas in the US. She thus illuminates parallels between birthing traditions that have survived hundreds of years of colonialism, enslavement, Jim Crow, and ongoing medical racism to persist as vital cultural practices that promote healthy outcomes for mothers and babies during pregnancy, birth, and beyond.
Linda Janet Holmes is an independent scholar, the former director of New Jersey’s Office of Minority and Multicultural Health, and a women’s health activist. Her writing—including articles in medical and feminist journals—has contributed to a resurgence of international recognition of the significance of African American midwifery practices. She is the coauthor (with Margaret Charles Smith) of Listen to Me Good: The Story of an Alabama Midwife, author of A Joyous Revolt: Toni Cade Bambara, Writer and Activist, and coeditor (with Cheryl A. Wall) of Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara. She lives in Hampton, Virginia.
Product Details ISBN: 9780814258668
ISBN-10: 0814258662
Publisher: Mad Creek Books
Publication Date: June 7th, 2023
Pages: 216
Language: English
“Through in-depth interviews and driven by personal passion and experience, Linda Janet Holmes weaves together the histories of African and African American midwives to share an undertold story of birthing traditions and justice.” —Linda Villarosa, author of Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation

“For countless generations, midwives have been a steady support to women, a stabilizing force for the family, and trusted leaders in their communities. Hope resides in their hands and within the pages of Linda Janet Holmes’s fascinating exploration of the birthing traditions of Black women from Alabama to their roots on the African continent. Safe in a Midwife’s Hands is a must-read on issues at the intersection of racial and reproductive justice and a celebration of the enduring wisdom of Black women.” —Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director, United Nations Population Fund

“This is essential reading for all who respect and honor the tradition of midwifery. Catching babies is a physical, emotional, and spiritual art.” —Byllye Avery, founder, Black Women’s Health Imperative

Safe in a Midwife’s Hands provides a rarely seen perspective that draws on lived experience and a keen sense of the human spirit to center the incredible role that midwives play in the birthing process. This beautifully written book pays necessary homage to the interconnectedness of the Black midwifery experience.” —Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha, founder and director, Center for Black Maternal Health and Reproductive Justice, Tufts University

​“Safe in a Midwife’s Hands captures in vivid detail the power and endurance of Black women who protected life from the history of enslavement to the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement. Like the midwives about whom she writes, Linda Holmes has given us the gift of women’s knowledge and power at the beginning of life.” —William Ferris, cofounder, Center for Southern Folklore

“Building on forty years of skillfully listening to Black midwives, Holmes guides us on a stirring journey across continents, customs, and generations to illuminate the rich diasporic traditions of midwifery.” —Wangui Muigai, Brandeis University