Jim Crow Geography and HIV Disparities

By Carolette Norwood

I’m super excited to be apart of the first Cincinnati Project cohort of scholars. My scholarship has always focused on the health and wellbeing of African American women. Currently I’m partnering up with Caracole House to extend on my existing research that takes into account how gender, race, sexuality and space intersects and the impact of these on health outcomes for Black women.

Community vs Individual Behavioral Factors when Studying HIV
In the past, researchers studying HIV have mostly focused on individual behavioral factors to assess risk. The problem with this approach is that it tends to overemphasize individuals’ sexual proclivities as a predictor of HIV disparities and personal risk. One of the most exciting implications of my current work is the elucidation of how macro processes (including structural policies like Jim Crow) create spaces (communities and neighborhood environments) that are more vulnerable for risk of illnesses (from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to everyday chronic illness).

STIs then become more pervasive and more prevalent within confined spaces and among populations that are already heavily compromised.

And ain’t this the legacy of Jim Crow?

1904 caricature of “White” and “Jim Crow” rail cars by John T. McCutcheon.

The spatial confinement of Blacks within Jim Crow geographies often meant living under extremely poor conditions, which not only worsened, but accelerated infectious diseases and diminished prenatal care, which resulted in much higher infant mortality rates and much shorter life expectancies. These antagonistic circumstances, alongside limited access to medical services, still largely reflect the continuity of racial health disparities between African Americans and whites. My current research traces back the Cincinnati Jim Crow history with regards to spatial reserves for African American residents. I’m interested in exploring the particularities of how spatial confinement impacts Black women’s health and wellbeing.

I see this project as being in conversation with a sparse body of work on Blacks in Cincinnati. Specifically, Dr. Nikki Taylor, author of Frontiers of Freedom: Cincinnati Black Community 1802-1868, Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, author of Race and the City: Work Community and Protest, Dr. Zane Miller’s Changing Plans for America’s Inner Cities: Cincinnati’s Over-The-Rhine and Twentieth-Century Urbanism and several journal articles, book chapters and reports authored by Dr. Charles F. Casey-Leininger. All are key texts that inform this project, specifically by addressing how Jim Crow borders came to be drawn, and the emergence of the Cincinnati urban reservation.

Jim Crow Geography and HIV Disparities
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