Interdisciplinary Forum

Sep 18, 2020

4:00 pm


Michael Murphy 2020

Interdisciplinary Forum

September 18, 4:00-5:00 p.m., Webex

“When They Start Cutting They’ll Head for Chicago:” State Sterilization as Massive Resistance
Dr. Micheal Murphy, Department of History


This project highlights the ways politicians, local officials, and individual obstetricians in the South used federal-and-state-sponsored medicine and legislation as instruments to maintain and reinforce white supremacy in the civil-rights era. I examine the use of compulsory and coerced sterilization, colloquially known as a Mississippi Appendectomy, as a frequently-used method to challenge African Americans’ civil rights gains, federal civil rights legislation, and segments of the War on Poverty. The sterilization debate occurred in the midst of the mechanization of agriculture, the displacement of black labor, and a consequent surge in African American activism. Individual obstetricians based their stance against delivering babies of unwed mothers receiving government assistance on fiscal conservatism and the segregationist rhetoric of the Citizens’ Council. The use of compulsory and coerced sterilization by politicians, local officials, and individual obstetricians became another effort by white supremacists and segregationists to violate African-American women’s sexual health and bodies.

At the Forum, Michael will give a 10-15 minute talk on this topic, then the floor will be open for questions and conversation.

An advanced copy of the paper will be available by 09/10 at:
Webex meeting information:
Meeting number:  120 940 9713
Password: 7Fbx3ptFK8R
Meeting time: September 18, 2020, 4:00 p.m.

Questions?  Email:

The Interdisciplinary Forum allows all MSU faculty members the opportunity to share their in-progress work and obtain feedback from their colleagues.

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