The Historical Significance of Doulas and Midwives

An African American midwife in Georgia going on a call carrying her kit. She is walking down a dirt road, and there is a house in the distance. Library of Congress

This Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture blog post celebrates the unsung work of African American birth workers, including doulas and midwifes, exploring their history and legacy.

“Today, midwives are trained healthcare providers who operate both at birthing centers, hospitals, and private residences to care for and support healthy mothers and newborns before, after, and during childbirth. However, midwifery has existed for centuries prior to its earliest recorded practice in the United States. Experienced midwives were among the many enslaved individuals who survived the middle passage and continued to practice and train others as the primary source of birth care throughout the country.”