The 1793 yellow fever outbreak was a national problem. At this time the United States Capital was located in Philadelphia, PA. This essay will focus on the outbreak in Philadelphia, PA, particularly how a few different views of the African American community played a role. During this terrible time thousands of local residents fled Philadelphia, including prominent members of government such as the first United States President, George Washington along with many other community members. A local paper had an ad looking for people of color to help attend to the sick.
The ad also assured those helped would not get sick ,and would be compensated. Responding to this ad was Absalom Jones and Richard Allen. Both men were leaders in the African American Community as well as free men. Fast forward to the details of what happened during this period. There were multiple theories as to the cause of the outbreak. Who could or couldn’t contract the disease was unclear as well. Also, accusations of theft and price gouging were made regarding those who helped. Then an article was written by Matthew Carey, a prominent white printer in Philadelphia.
While he praised Richard Allen and Absalom Jones for their work (Winch) he suggested that blacks had caused the epidemic, and that some black nurses had charged high fees and even stolen from those for whom they cared. (Carey) This caused a printed rebuttal by Allen to save the reputation of the African American community. Allen wrote for everyone to read about what he personally saw, as he stayed in Philadelphia during the outbreak, and was on the front line helping. Multiple accounts of the helping blacks were noted in his text. Examples of African Americans caring for, treating, and burying the ill are given.
In most of these instances no money was taken by the African Americans who stepped up to help. However, Mr. Allen did admit there were a few instances of shady acts by members of his community. Mr. Carey’s accusation of the price gouging and stealing from the ill wasn’t supported by any examples. “We feel ourselves hurt most by a partial, censorious paragraph, in Mr. Carey’s second edition, of his account of the sickness, in Philadelphia; pages 76 and 77, where he asperses the blacks alone, for having taken advantage of the distressed situation on the people.
”(Crowley and Stancliff 283). Since this was printed in multiple editions it appears Mr. Carey did very well financially selling papers, rather than reporting factual information. “We believe he has made more money by the sale of his ‘scraps’ than a dozen of the greatest extortioners among black nurses. ”(Crowley and Stancliff 284). Mr. Allen acknowledges that some blacks have committed crimes, but they have been convicted of their crimes. He also points out Mr. Carey didn’t even stick around to offer any help to the ill; rather, he fled his hometown to help assure his health.
Mr. Allen uses some powerful stats in a letter to the Mayor of Philadelphia. The purpose was to show what happened to the beds of the sick after they had passed away and that they were not price gouging. This would counter the claims of Mr. Carey about the blacks stealing from the ill and over charging. The letter was of a chart showing what was paid to the men and women for their service, and what costs were incurred, Then end result was an out pocket loss of –over $27,000 in today’s terms, if the conversion from pounds to dollars chart is correct.
Mr. Allen used stats, comparisons, and eye witness accounts to back up his claims that the majority of the blacks who helped during this crisis did so with good intentions, often turning down money offered to them. He also gives a couple of very strong examples of whites taking advantage of the ill. One being of a white woman caring for a couple that both died in one night. She had demanded six pounds, and upon searching bulges in her clothing, she was found in possession of buckles from the gentleman that had passed, among other things.
Another account was of four white men that demanded forty dollars just for carrying a coffin downstairs. Lastly, a white woman who was caring for an elderly lady was found with rings, one on her finger and another in her pocket. The Philadelphia mayor praised Allen and Jones as well as the African American community for all their help. All the stats and eye witness accounts of what happened makes Mr. Allen’s account believable and admirable. Mr. Carey was not there for the duration of the epidemic and did not back up his accusations with evidence. This also makes Mr.
Allen’s account more convincing. Mr. Allen seems to cover the good and bad accounts of his community. When he examines the whites that helped all that was noted was that of stealing and price gouging. Again, the article Mr. Carey prints doesn’t back up his community with any examples of good deeds. In conclusion, Mr. Allen, the author did his best to defend his community to anyone that read his text. He was very clear, easy to understand, and didn’t seem to present a biased view. He presented his account, both the good as well as the bad, and made me feel like Mr.
Carey was not a credible author. Works Cited Crowley, Sharon, and Michael Stancliff. “A narrative of the proceedings of the black people during the late awful calamity in Philadelphia. ” Critical Situations a Rhetoric for Writing in Communities. Lauren A. Finn. Penguin Academics, 2008. 281-95. Print. Carey, Matthew. “A short account of the malignant fever. ” 1794. P. 63 web. Retrieved June 20 2013. Winch, Julie. “on Jones and Allen’s responses to Carey. ” Part 3. Philadelphia, Yellow Fever Epidemics. PBS. org. 1998. Retrieved June 20 2013.
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