After the Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Health Legacy of the 1960s Civil Rights Era in a Southern Community

Award Year:
Sherman James
History of Medicine and Public Health
During the years immediately following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, gaps in health and access to medical care between black and white Americans began to narrow. How did civil rights legislation and newly created social programs help lead to those health improvements? Sherman A. James, Ph.D. probes this question in his project, After the Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Health Legacy of the 1960's Civil Rights Era in a Southern Community. Through a case study of Pitt County, North Carolina, a poor rural southern community, Dr. James looks at the activities of those who led the desegregation of the county hospital and efforts by citizen activists, voluntary organizations, community leaders, and the press to open the doors of opportunity. Using the fundamental cause framework developed by Investigator Awardees Jo Phelan, Ph.D., and Bruce Link, Ph.D., Dr. James analyzes how access to money, knowledge, prestige, power, and social connections is linked to population health and to the success of public policies. His findings should help illuminate the role civil society plays in distributing life-enhancing resources more fairly and in facilitating or impeding public policies aimed at improving the health of all Americans.