Historically, Black doulas and mid-wives have held highly esteemed positions in African American communities. Beyond birth work, Black midwives were "...postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, family counselors, health educators, and so much more" (Olivia Dockery. Health Connect One). "Granny" midwives passed down their knowledge and skills to younger generations. They traveled both near and far to provide care to poor and rural Black and white families (Smithsonian).
Mary Francis Hill Coley
Untitled (All My Babies Portrait) Midwife Mary Francis Hill Coley poses in her home alongside photos of the 3,000 children she helped birth. This still is taken from the 1953 black and white documentary film, "All My Babies."
Credit: Collection of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Robert Galbraith, © 1987 Robert Galbraith
Mary Francis Hill Coley was a Black midwife from Albany, Georgia. During her career, Coley delivered over 3,000 babies! "In the 1952 documentary, “All My Babies,” Coley demonstrated how a well-trained lay midwife could deliver healthy babies even in the poorest conditions while acting as an intermediary between patients, nurses, physicians, and members of the local community" (Smithsonian). When Coley passed away, her funeral program noted her legacy was this film (Wangui Muigai).
Health Connect One: https://healthconnectone.org/honoring-black-birth-workers-of-the-past/
Smithsonian - Nation Museum of African American History & Culture: https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/historical-significance-doulas-and-midwives
National Library of Medicine: https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-8600326A-vid
Johns Hopkins University Press: “Something Wasn’t Clean”: Black Midwifery, Birth, and Postwar Medical Education in All My Babies, Wangui Muigai, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Volume 93, Number 1, Spring 2019, pp. 82-113 (Article)