Black History – Pandemic-wise: A Lesson from the Ancestors

Go Lean Commentary

The Ancestors are speaking to us, telling us to remember them, remember their sacrifices and achievements, and then to follow their models on mitigating communicable diseases.

Listen carefully!

Listen, especially now during Black History Month 2021, in the middle of a global pandemic, to the lessons from previous generations, or forefathers and foremothers.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. – The Bible; Proverbs 1:8 New International Version

There is no way to justify Slavery and the Slave Trade! It was an abominable stain on European society and the Church; see the Appendix VIDEO below.

But we cannot change that Bad History. Like all things historic, all we can do is study it, learn from it and change the present-future to optimize our lives and society based on those lessons. This aligns with the Old Adage:

Those who do not learn from history are forced to repeat it.

So now, we must listen to the lessons from our Ancestors in dealing with a modern day crisis – COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. Our Ancestors told us, and the whole world how to mitigate, minimize and manage this and all epidemics. See this Lesson in History in the story here:

Title: How an Enslaved African Man in Boston Helped Save Generations from Smallpox
In the early 1700s, Onesimus shared a revolutionary way to prevent smallpox.
By: Erin Blakemore

The news was terrifying to colonists in Massachusetts: Smallpox had made it to Boston and was spreading rapidly. The first victims, passengers on a ship from the Caribbean, were shut up in a house identified only by a red flag that read “God have mercy on this house.” Meanwhile, hundreds of residents of the bustling colonial town had started to flee for their lives, terrified of what might happen if they exposed themselves to the frequently deadly disease.

They had reason to fear. The virus was extremely contagious, spreading like wildfire in large epidemics. Smallpox patients experienced fever, fatigue and a crusty rash that could leave disfiguring scars. In up to 30 percent of cases, it killed.

But the smallpox epidemic of 1721 was different than any that came before it. As sickness swept through the city, killing hundreds in a time before modern medical treatment or a robust understanding of infectious disease, an enslaved man known only as Onesimus suggested a potential way to keep people from getting sick. Intrigued by Onesimus’ idea, a brave doctor and an outspoken minister undertook a bold experiment to try to stop smallpox in its tracks.

Smallpox was one of the era’s deadliest afflictions. “Few diseases at this time were as universal or fatal,” notes historian Susan Pryor. The colonists saw its effects not just among their own countrymen, but among the Native Americans to whom they introduced the disease. Smallpox destroyed Native communities that, with no immunity, were unable to fight off the virus.

Smallpox also entered the colonies on slave ships, transmitted by enslaved people who, in packed and unsanitary quarters, passed the disease along to one another and, eventually, to colonists at their destinations. One of those destinations was Massachusetts, which was a center of the early slave trade. The first enslaved people had arrived in Massachusetts in 1638, and by 1700, about 1,000 enslaved people lived in the colony, most in Boston.

In 1706, an enslaved West African man was purchased for the prominent Puritan minister Cotton Mather by his congregation. Mather gave him the name Onesimus, after an enslaved man in the Bible whose name meant “useful.” Mather, who had been a powerful figure in the Salem Witch Trials, believed that owners of enslaved people had a duty to convert enslaved people to Christianity and educate them. But like other white men of his era, he also looked down on what he called the “Devilish rites” of Africans and worried that enslaved people might openly rebel.

Mather didn’t trust Onesimus: He wrote about having to watch him carefully due to what he thought was “thievish” behavior, and recorded in his diary that he was “wicked” and “useless.” But in 1716, Onesimus told him something he did believe: That he knew how to prevent smallpox.

Onesimus, who “is a pretty intelligent fellow,” Mather wrote, told him he had had smallpox—and then hadn’t. Onesimus said that he “had undergone an operation, which had given him something of the smallpox and would forever preserve him from it…and whoever had the courage to use it was forever free of the fear of contagion.”

The operation Onesimus referred to consisted of rubbing pus from an infected person into an open wound on the arm. Once the infected material was introduced into the body, the person who underwent the procedure was inoculated against smallpox. It wasn’t a vaccination, which involves exposure to a less dangerous virus to provoke immunity. But it did activate the recipient’s immune response and protected against the disease most of the time.

Mather was fascinated. He verified Onesimus’ story with that of other enslaved people, and learned that the practice had been used in Turkey and China. He became an evangelist for inoculation—also known as variolation—and spread the word throughout Massachusetts and elsewhere in the hopes it would help prevent smallpox.

But Mather hadn’t bargained on how unpopular the idea would be. The same prejudices that caused him to distrust his servant made other white colonists reluctant to undergo a medical procedure developed by or for Black people. Mather “was vilified,” historian Ted Widmer told WGBH. “A local newspaper, called The New England Courant, ridiculed him. An explosive device was thrown through his windows with an angry note. There was an ugly racial element to the anger.” Religion also contributed: Other preachers argued that it was against God’s will to expose his creatures to dangerous diseases.

But in 1721, Mather and Zabdiel Boylston, the only physician in Boston who supported the technique, got their chance to test the power of inoculation. That year, a smallpox epidemic spread from a ship to the population of Boston, sickening about half of the city’s residents. Boylston sprang into action, inoculating his son and his enslaved workers against the disease. Then, he began inoculating other Bostonians. Of the 242 people he inoculated, only six died—one in 40, as opposed to one in seven deaths among the population of Boston who didn’t undergo the procedure.

The smallpox epidemic wiped out 844 people in Boston, over 14 percent of the population. But it had yielded hope for future epidemics. It also helped set the stage for vaccination. In 1796, Edward Jenner developed an effective vaccine that used cowpox to provoke smallpox immunity. It worked. Eventually, smallpox vaccination became mandatory in Massachusetts.

Did Onesimus live to see the success of the technique he introduced to Mather? It isn’t clear. Nothing is known of his later life other than that he partially purchased his freedom. To do so, writes historian Steven J. Niven, he gave Mather money to purchase another enslaved person. What is clear is that the knowledge he passed on saved hundreds of lives—and led to the eventual eradication of smallpox.

In 1980, the World Health Organization declared smallpox entirely eradicated due to the spread of immunization worldwide. It remains the only infectious disease to have been entirely wiped out.

Source: History Channel; posted Feb 3, 2021; retrieved Feb 13, 2021 from:

What is the take-away?

Get inoculated or vaccinated. The human body and immune system has a way of learning, in advance, how to counteract viruses. The Ancestors conveyed this lesson to the waiting world that there is a way to build up our personal defenses by introducing a virus in a controlled manner.

This is a Big Deal now, as many descendants of those same slaves – in the Americas and the Caribbean – refuse to consider the option of vaccinations for COVID-19. See this excerpt from a previous blog-commentary from August 29, 2020:

Title: Pandemic Playbook – COVID Vaccine: To Be or Not To Be

The world is enduring the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic crisis; it is wreaking havoc on the world’s economic engines – $250 Billion a day in losses – and Public Health deliveries. The only hope is a vaccine, of which there are a number of them in development (Phase I – Test Tubes, Phase II – Lab Mice, Phase III – Human Trials). Around $10bn is being spent on finding a vaccine for this Coronavirus.

Will you consume or ingest the eventual vaccine?

Will you allow your children to ingest? What percentage of people in the community will refuse to ingest?

What if consumption is a prerequisite for work, school, church, travel, etc.?

But don’t get it twisted! The Caribbean member-states boast a Service industrial economy – tourism. To participate in this industry space will require compliance. Tourists – by air for resort-based stay-overs or cruise line passengers – will not want to expose themselves to possible infections.

Lastly, individuals can simply chose to exit societal functioning – a self-imposed quarantine; think: Leper Colony. These ones will have to take a seat – with a view – and watch life pass them by.

Is this what you want for yourself, your family and your community? If you chose NO VACCINE, you have that right. But your children may choose differently. Especially those children that you invested so selflessly to get advanced education – college graduates. Already, this population have a higher than normal abandonment rate in the region.

The Caribbean region is in an epidemiological crisis. What are we to do?

We hereby urge all to listen to the Ancestors: Take the vaccine.

A lot of blood, sweat and tears have spilled to get us to this point; do not disregard those sacrifices.

Learning lessons from our Ancestors in Black History is always the motive every February of every year in the US and other countries. The movement behind the 2013 book Go Lean…Commentary have consistently participated in this quest to educate Caribbean communities on the merits of Black History. In fact, this commentary is our 326th submissions on a theme related to Black History and/or the African experience in the New World.

Consider this sample list from previous blog-commentaries: Ready for February – Black History Month Black Image – Slavery in History: Lessons from the Bible A Lesson from America’s Slavery History – Greatest Story Never Told 400 Years of Slavery – International Day of Remembrance What Went Wrong? ‘7 to 1’ – Quantifying Caribbean ‘Less Than’ Remembering Marcus Garvey: Still Relevant Today Authorizing Slavery – Royal Charters: Truth & Consequence A Lesson in History: Booker T versus Du Bois

Learning lessons from the past, from Black History, would mean acting in harmony with those lessons. While we may not be able to fix the historic past, surely we should apply the wisdom from the Ancestors and fix the present and ensure a brighter future.

The Go Lean movement is here to do more than just pique our collective conscience; we are here to act! The purpose of the Go Lean book is to usher in a Caribbean regional administrations to cooperate, collaborate and coordinate technocratic Homeland Security solutions for all 30 Caribbean member-states – the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU) – despite their historical legacies or governmental hierarchy.

See this synopsis here, as related in a previous Go Lean commentary from March 24, 2015:

Title: A Lesson in History – SARS in Hong Kong
The CU is not designed to just be in some advisory role when it comes to pandemic crises, but rather to possess the authority to act as a Security Apparatus for the region’s Greater Good. This is the mandate as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Page 11) related to climate change, but it applies equally to pandemics, to …

  • “protect the entire region it is necessary to prepare to insure the safety and security of life, property and systems of commerce in our geographical region. As nature recognizes no borders in the target of its destruction, we also must set aside border considerations in the preparation and response to these … challenges”.

Legally, each Caribbean member-state would ratify a Status of Forces Agreement that would authorize this role for the CU agencies (Emergency Management and Disease Control & Management) to serve as a proxy and deputy of the Public Health administrations for each member-state. This would thusly empower these CU agencies to quarantine and detain citizens with probable cause of an infectious disease. The transparency, accountability and chain-of-command would be intact with the appropriate checks-and-balances of the CU’s legislative and judicial oversight. This is a lesson learned from Hong Kong 2003 with China’s belligerence.

As concluded in that previous August 29, 2020 blog-commentary, we urge all Caribbean stakeholders – governments, citizens, doctors and patients – to participate in the global quest to eradicate this [COVID-19] pandemic. This is the roadmap for making the Caribbean homeland a better place to live, work, heal and play. [The slave named Onesimus did this with Smallpox in 1721]; Jonas Salk did it with Polio … eventually; we can too. So our vision, this quest is conceivable, believable and achievable.

Let’s do our part and learn these important lessons from our Ancestors. 🙂

About the Book
The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Who We Are
The movement behind the Go Lean book – a non-partisan, apolitical, religiously-neutral Community Development Foundation chartered for the purpose of empowering and re-booting economic engines – stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 11 – 13):

ix. Whereas the realities of healthcare and an aging population cannot be ignored and cannot be afforded without some advanced mitigation, the Federation must arrange for health plans to consolidate premiums of both healthy and sickly people across the wider base of the entire Caribbean population. The mitigation should extend further to disease management …

x. Whereas we are surrounded and allied to nations of larger proportions in land mass, populations, and treasuries, elements in their societies may have ill-intent in their pursuits, at the expense of the safety and security of our citizens. We must therefore appoint “new guards” to ensure our public safety and threats against our society, both domestic and foreign. …

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xii. Whereas the legacy in recent times in individual states may be that of ineffectual governance with no redress to higher authority, the accedence of this Federation will ensure accountability and escalation of human and civil rights of the people for good governance, justice assurances, due process and the rule of law. As such, any threats of a “failed state” status for any member state must enact emergency measures on behalf of the Federation to protect the human, civil and property rights of the citizens, residents, allies, trading partners, and visitors of the affected member state and the Federation as a whole.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accidence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix VIDEO: Life Aboard a Slave Ship | History –

Published on Feb 7, 2019 – From approximately 1525 to 1866, 12.5 million Africans were forcibly transported across the Middle Passage to serve as slaves in the New World. Life aboard slave ships was agonizing and dangerous; nearly 2 million slaves would perish on their journey across the Atlantic.

Read More:

Check out exclusive HISTORY content:

Website –
Facebook –
Twitter –

HISTORY®, now reaching more than 98 million homes, is the leading destination for award-winning original series and specials that connect viewers with history in an informative, immersive, and entertaining manner across all platforms. The network’s all-original programming slate features a roster of hit series, epic miniseries, and scripted event programming. Visit us at​ for more info.

Share this post:
, ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *