Born into a tenant farming family in North Carolina in 1946, Mary Louise, Mary Ann, Mary Alice, and Mary Catherine were medical miracles. Annie Mae Fultz, a Black-Cherokee woman who lost her ability to hear and speak in childhood, became the mother of America's first surviving set of identical quadruplets. They were instant celebrities. Their White doctor named them after his own family members. He sold the rights to use the sisters for marketing purposes to the highest-bidding formula company. The girls lived in poverty, while Pet Milk'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 riveting story of the Fultz quadruplets while uncovering 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 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 partnerships between the government and corporations lead to racial and gender health disparities. Her work has been featured on NPR, Huffington Post, Salon, The Washington Post, The Conversation, Pacific Standard, and more.
"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, University of California, Berkeley
"Recovering the remarkable story of the Fultz quadruplets, Andrea Freeman brilliantly reveals how racism, economic inequality, and an unholy alliance between corporations and federal programs create the racial disparity in breastfeeding. Skimmed connects longstanding stereotypes to structural impediments that deny Black mothers the ability to decide for themselves how to feed their babies. This urgent book reveals the deadly consequences of a health crisis that implicates race, gender, economic, food, and reproductive justice."
—Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
"This book blew me away. In prose that is equally rigorous and lush, Andrea Freeman walks us into the making of an engineered health crisis through the lives of four Black girls. Skimmed patiently explores the nexus between Blackness and Indigeneity, engineered terror and liberatory possibilities. It is the rare book that my heart will never forget, and my head will always wonder how on earth Freeman pulled this off."
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir
"Skimmed weaves together the story of the Fultz family with history and legal scholarship to explain how medical coercion and white supremacy have shaped Black communities' access to first food. Offering solutions from food justice organizers, Andrea Freeman shows us a path to supporting families who want to breastfeed."
—Dani McClain, author of We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood