Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and The Meaning of Liberty

Dorothy E. Roberts, Penn Carey Law School

Vintage paperback 1999, Vintage 20th anniversary edition 2017


In Killing the Black Body, Dorothy Roberts gives a powerful and authoritative account of the on-going assault - both figurative and literal - waged by the American government and our society on the reproductive rights of Black women. From an intersection of charged vectors (race, gender, motherhood, abortion, welfare, adoption, and the law), Roberts addresses in her impassioned book such issues as: the notion of prenatal property imposed upon slave women by white masters; the unsavory association between birth control champion Margaret Sanger and the eugenics movement of the 1920s; the coercive sterilization of Black women (many of whom were unaware that they had undergone the procedure) under government welfare programs as late as the 1970s; the race and class implications of distributing risky, long-acting contraceptives, such as Norplant, through Medicaid; the rendering of reproduction as a crime of prosecuting women who expose their fetuses to drugs; the controversy over transracial adoption; the welfare debate (who should pay for reproduction?); and the promotion of the new birth technology (in vitro fertilization and egg donation) to serve infertile white couples.