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Black Man Creates Vaccination in America, Saves Millions in the Future

There might be a possibility that there could be less vaccine hesitancy if more people were educated on the notion that the modern vaccination was brought to the United States by an enslaved Black man.

It’s a notion worth exploring, especially since the CDC already warned about the potential of a cold weather spike in COVID-19, and that moving forward the government is also advising that COVID-19 will need to be treated like influenza. The best protection is from variants derived from getting updated yearly boosters, according to

Only 49% of Black folks in the United States planned on getting the COVID vaccine in December 2020, according to a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. In a July 2022 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly every state has over 50% of its Black population with at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. And due to the hesitancy, there is still more to do to get everyone vaccinated.

“There is some hesitancy in our community to get vaccinated, but we should know that a Black man brought the technology behind vaccines, one of the most important public health strategies there is to America, Dr. Melissa Clarke said to “Vaccines were not created to be against Black people, but rather as a result of and by Black people.”

A man by the name of Onesimus, an enslaved African, brought the knowledge of preventing disease to America in the early 1700s. Deemed a “gift” by his church congregation, he was given to a Puritan minister named Cotton Mather in Boston, Massachusetts. Mather changed his name to Onesimus, which means “useful” in Greek.

Mather was known around Massachusetts for having a substantial role in the Salem Witch Trials, warning judges on spectral evidence during their trials.

He had a passion for witchcraft and medicine, bringing in people that he deemed “possessed” and studying them.

A smallpox outbreak that began in 1721 prompted Mather to ask Onesimus about his experience with protection against smallpox, as he encountered it before. Smallpox, at the time, was one of the deadliest diseases in history. Three out of 10 people died from contracting it at the time. So, Onesimus articulated to Mather that, in fact, he was protected from getting smallpox because of a procedure, inoculation, that he had done in Africa before being enslaved.

Inoculation was the common word used for vaccination at the time. Inoculation is “the process of introducing a weaker strain of disease onto a person’s open wound.” Getting exposed to a small amount of smallpox by inoculation gave Onesimus’ body the tools it needed to fight it off in the future.

Still, inoculation wasn’t well received in the New England community because people didn’t believe that any knowledge from a slave could be true. But Mather still ended up inoculating his son, and the process was almost deadly. Folks protested, threatening Mather’s life over his proposal to have inoculation as a widespread practice. A bomb was even thrown through Mather’s window with a note saying,” Cotton Mather, you dog, dam you! I’ll inoculate you with this, with a pox to you.”

A small population had the procedure. And Mather used the inoculation to protect his family, friends, and enslaved people, preventing almost 200 deaths in Boston amid the next big smallpox outbreak. The inoculation process ended up leading to the creation of the smallpox vaccine later in the century, and it is the foundation for today’s vaccine.

It was a Black man who helped save hundreds of folks back in the day and that knowledge saved millions of people in today’s age.

It’s important to get vaccinated.

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