The Jake Walk Blues: Intoxicants, Disability and Stigma in America

Project Details


Grant reference number: 200350/A/15/Z
Funding organization: Wellcome Trust

During America’s Great Depression the patent medicine Jamaica Ginger (JG) was adulterated with a toxic substance that could cause limb paralysis. Contaminated JG primarily afflicted white and African American sharecroppers and mill workers, who sought the medicine during Prohibition due to its high alcohol content. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people became afflicted, leaving survivors with lasting physical disability, limited economic opportunity, and severe social stigmas. Survivors and their families organized action groups, tested remedies, and pushed for legal recourse, while the federal government attempted bring the perpetrators to justice. Drawing on a rich collection of archival records, oral histories, blues music, literature, and historical newspapers, this project will explore the legacy of this forgotten episode in American history.
Alternative titleThe Jake Walk Blues
Effective start/end date1/05/1628/02/22

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Black Humanities
  • Centre for Humanities Health and Science


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