The Free African Society and The Yellow Fever Pandemic:Black Doctors and Nurses Provided Assistance…
In September 1793, a solicitation appeared in the local Philadelphian newspapers calling on African Americans to
come forward and assist the “distressed, perishing, and neglected” whites suffering from the yellow fever outbreak in
Philadelphia in 1793. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, two black abolitionists, led the first wave of black “benevolent”
workers into the streets of Philadelphia, providing services wherever needed. Allen recalled in his autobiography, “The
Lord was pleased to strengthen us, and remove all fear from us, and disposed our hearts to be as useful as possible.
The Free African Society The FAS supplied nurses, corpse-carries, black doctors, physical laborers, and transportation for the
sick to Bush Hill, one area that provided medical assistance to the plague victims. It is estimated that the FAS provided
2,000 blacks workers during the plague. The FAS did not at first charge for services, but the extent of work and time soon
forced black helpers to ask for some compensation. In fact, the FAS was in debt by the end of the plague, and almost
forced to disband. Most importantly, Philadelphian black society encountered significant human losses during the plague.
In Bring Out Your Dead, Powell estimates that proportionally as many whites as blacks died during the plague. 17