Birthing Justice for Black Women

Birthing JusticeClaremont, Calif. (July 29, 2015)—Alicia D. Bonaparte, associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College, co-edited (with Julia Chinyere Oparah) Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth, released this spring by Paradigm Publishers/Routledge.

Birthing Justice addresses the global crisis in maternal health care for black women. In the US, black women are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women and their babies are half as likely to survive the first year, the book reports.

This anthology is a mix of scholarly, activist and personal perspectives, with black women’s voices at the center of the debate on how to fix the broken maternity system.

“We honor traditional childbearing knowledge, oral traditions and birth justice pioneers who strove to address black women’s maternal health outcomes,” Bonaparte said. “With this anthology, we aim to address a gap in maternal health literature by using deeply personal, moving essays and including noted reproductive justice activists such as Loretta J. Ross to discuss why black women persistently experience disparate maternal care and how they fought for birth justice.”

Bonaparte said the book is also a call to action for more parties to become allies in the fight against black women’s maternal health disparities.

“We want black women to learn about how self-agency can be reaffirmed in the oppressive US medical industrial complex,” she said.

Professor Christa Craven of the College of Wooster calls Birthing Justice “a truly original and innovative book and an absolute necessity in the current field of research on reproduction.”

Bonaparte contributed two chapters to the anthology regarding her research on black midwives in the southern US.  One chapter focuses on the roles race and gender had on the midwifery regulation of African American midwives in South Carolina.  The other chapter is co-written with Jennie Joseph, noted midwife activist and founder of the JJ Way midwifery model of care.

Alicia D. Bonaparte, at Pitzer since 2008, is a medical sociologist with a specialization in reproductive health and health disparities. Her courses at Pitzer include Sociology of Health and Medicine, African American Social Theory and a new course titled Moon Called: Black Women, Pregnancy and Ritual. She is currently working on a manuscript addressing how racism, sexism and inter-occupational conflict impacted Black grandmother midwives in South Carolina.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

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