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If the real origins of science, discovery, and inventions were told, it might break the very foundation we stand on. Then what would happen?

There is a common myth told in the medical and scientific world, that a white man created the vaccine. This narrative has been told for far too long and it’s time we acknowledge the real origins of vaccinations.

“The story of vaccines did not begin with the first vaccine–Edward Jenner’s use of material from cowpox pustules to provide protection against smallpox. Rather, it begins with the long history of infectious disease in humans, and in particular, with early uses of smallpox material to provide immunity to that disease.

Evidence exists that the Chinese employed smallpox inoculation (or variolation, as such use of smallpox material was called) as early as 1000 CE. It was practiced in Africa and Turkey as well, before it spread to Europe and the Americas.” –

In fact, one of the most important people in the history of modern medicine was an enslaved African whose real name is unknown. 

“His slave name was Onesimus, which means useful in Latin. The Biblical Onesmius ran away from slavery but was persuaded to return to his master,” Thomas said. “The African-American Onesimus was the person who introduced the practice of immunization against smallpox to North America. This immunization process was called variolation because it involved real smallpox. Variolation led to sharp decreases in the death rate from smallpox and an important decrease in overall death rates,” she said. –

It is important that we finally accept the history that is so often untold. And that starts with education.


Additional Resources:

Books for reading:
Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena Gutiérrez.
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
Cherokee Medicine, Colonial Germs: An Indigenous Nation’s Fight against Smallpox, 1518–1824 by Paul Kelton
Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith