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South Carolina – African-Americans – The Onslaught of Cholera

Also see: African-Americans - 1525-1865 Main Page

Written by Michael Trinkley of the Chicora Foundation

Cholera is caused by the organism Cholera vibrio, which was carried to Europe and North America from Asia in the early nineteenth century. It was most often spread by contaminated water, but it could also be spread through food or simply by touching one's hand to one's mouth. It was common in crowded, unsanitary conditions – just like the ones in which most slaves were forced to live.

Its symptoms came in a sudden, overwhelming attack. The first symptom was dehydration, marked by vomiting and profuse diarrhea. This dramatic loss of body fluid collapsed the tissue. Coagulated blood ceased to flow, skin turned blue, and the heart and kidneys failed – often within just a few hours. People who were perfectly healthy in the morning would die by nightfall. In the time between, they suffered unspeakable agony.


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