Hunter-Holmes Lecture Tackles Black Maternal Mortality Rates

UGA’s first Black female student, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, celebrated her 82nd birthday at the annual Hunter-Holmes Lecture with Spelman President Helene Gayle.

At the lecture, Hunter-Gault also recounted her struggles first coming on to campus.

“There were students, mostly boys, yelling the n-word go home and that was supposed to deter us from finishing our registration,” said Hunter-Gault.

But even with all of this hate, she persevered.

“I was looking for the n-word, cause I knew who I was,” Hunter-Gault said.

She explained that other students at that time would give her books with missing pages on purpose and pig ear sandwiches.

“Everything was supposed to make us feel second class,” Hunter-Gault said.

After graduating, she became an American civil rights activist, journalist and former foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, CNN, and the Public Broadcasting Service.

When Gayle and Hunter-Gault began their conversation, they realized there are still challenges today for Black women, especially in public health.

“The health of women, particularly women of color,” Gayle said. “We bear a greater burden of poor health.”

The maternal mortality rate of black women is almost three times higher than white or hispanic women’s maternal mortality rate. (Info from CDC/Graphic by Lucy Bertsch)

In 2021, the Black women’s maternal mortality rate was almost three times higher than white and Hispanic women’s maternal mortality rate, reports the CDC.

“It is one of the most glaring disparities here in our country,” Gayle said. “These issues are related to poor access to health, but we are also realizing that poor health is connected to broader social issues.”

She then explained how these social issues included income, education, nutrition and stress.

Even in the wake of this public health issue, Gayle said she believed there will be change in the future.

“When you look at race and race relations, this generation is multicultural,” said Gayle. “They have groups of friends that reflect a wide diversity.”

Lucy Bertsch is a journalism student in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

 

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