Cover of Skimmed by Andrea Freeman
Skimmed
Breastfeeding, Race, and Injustice
Andrea Freeman

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November 2019
336 pages.
$28.00

Cloth ISBN: 9781503601123

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These four African American babies were the first surviving set of identical quadruplets born in the United States. Their white doctor named them and sold the rights to their image. He benefited while they lived in poverty. The Pet Milk company used the quads to sell formula instead of breast milk to generations of black mothers. But that isn't the whole story.

Born into a poor sharecropper family in North Carolina in 1946, Mary Louise, Mary Ann, Mary Alice, and Mary Catherine were medical miracles. Their mother, Annie Mae Fultz, a Black-Cherokee woman, delivered the first surviving set of identical quadruplets in America. Instant celebrities, their White doctor sold the rights to use the girls for marketing purposes to the highest-bidding formula company. The girls lived in poverty, while Pet Milk Company's profits from a previously untapped market of Black families skyrocketed.

Over half a century later, baby formula is a seventy billion dollar industry and Black mothers have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. Since slavery, legal, political, and societal factors have routinely denied Black women the ability to choose how to feed their babies. In Skimmed, Andrea Freeman tells the tragic story of the Fultz quadruplets while also uncovering the fraught history of how feeding America's youngest citizens is awash in social, legal, and cultural inequalities. This book highlights the making of a modern public health crisis, the four extraordinary girls whose stories encapsulate a nationwide injustice, and how we can fight for a healthier and more just future.

About the author

Andrea Freeman is Associate Professor at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law. Freeman writes and researches at the intersection of critical race theory and issues of food policy, health, and consumer credit. She is the pioneer of the theory of "food oppression," which examines how seemingly neutral food-related law, policy, and government action, in cooperation with corporate interests, disproportionately harm marginalized communities.

"Skimmed provides a powerful portrait of how racism fuels the disparity between who breastfeeds in the U.S. Freeman shows that race continues to matter, even when it comes down to our children's first food, despite many Americans' belief that we are beyond race."

—Khiara M. Bridges, Boston University