January 14, 2019 ·
AFRICAN BARBER SURGEONS 💈 : MORE THAN A HAIRCUT
Up until the 19th century barbers were generally referred to as barber-surgeons, and they were called upon to perform a wide variety of tasks. They treated and extracted teeth, branded slaves, created ritual tattoos or scars (Tribal marks), cut out gallstones and hangnails, set fractures, gave enemas, and lanced abscesses. Whereas physicians of their age examined urine or studied the stars to determine a patient’s diagnosis, barber-surgeons experienced their patients up close and personal. Black barber-surgeons also provided the only medical service that Africans received aboard slave ships, since the “surgeons” who made the crossings to and from africa were often slaved barber-surgeons forced to work on slaveships by their masters. They were more than likely rented or leased to the ship Capt or company.
Kongo/Angola slaves and freemen dominated the barbering trade in South Carolina, New York, And other places in the diaspora, performing the same tasks as free barbers: shaving, dressing hair, and setting wigs. They also worked as personal body servants and were employed in shops owned by their slave masters. In Bahia, between 1741 and 1749 all 38 barbers were of African descent — 17 slaves and 21 free blacks or mulatos . The techniques of cupping and blistering was also practiced in Africa by Hausa barber-surgeons (Imperato, 17). Barber-surgeons occupied a unique position and constituted a significant part of the male ex-slave population. Despite the fact that full-time slave barber-surgeons were only about one percent of the whole male slave population, barber-surgeons constituted surgeons represented 6.3 percent of the African-born freedmen in Conceição da Praia parish (1843).
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