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"Dancing on eggs": Charles H. Bynum, racial politics, and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, 1938-1954.

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Mawdsley, Stephen E 


In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his law partner Basil O'Connor formed the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) to battle the viral disease poliomyelitis. Although the NFIP program was purported to be available for all Americans irrespective of "race, creed, or color," officials encountered numerous difficulties upholding this pledge in a nation divided by race. In 1944, NFIP officials hired educator Charles H. Bynum to head a new department of "Negro Activities." Between 1944 and 1954, Bynum negotiated the NFIP bureaucracy to educate officials and influence their national health policy. As part of the NFIP team, he helped increase interracial fund-raising in the March of Dimes, improve polio treatment for black Americans, and further the civil rights movement.



Black or African American, History, 20th Century, Humans, Poliomyelitis, Prejudice, Public Health, Race Relations, United States, Voluntary Health Agencies

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Bull Hist Med

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Financial support for this article was provided by a Ph.D. fellowship from SSHRC as well as by studentships from the U.K. Overseas Research Student Awards Scheme and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust.