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Safe in a Midwife's Hands: Birthing Traditions from Africa to the American South

After a less-than-positive experience giving birth as a Black woman in the 1970s, Linda Janet Holmes launched a lifetime of work as an activist dedicated to learning about and honoring alternative birth traditions and the Black women behind them. Safe in a Midwife's Hands brings together what Holmes has gleaned from the countless midwives who have shared with her their experiences, at a time when their knowledge and holistic approaches are essential counterbalances to a medical system that routinely fails Black mothers and babies. Building on work she began in the 1980s, when she interviewed traditional Black midwives in Alabama and Virginia, Holmes traveled to Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya to visit midwives there. In detailing their work, from massage to the uses of medicinal plants to naming ceremonies, she links their voices to those of midwives and doulas in the US. She thus illuminates parallels between birthing traditions that have survived hundreds of years of colonialism, enslavement, Jim Crow, and ongoing medical racism to persist as vital cultural practices that promote healthy outcomes for mothers and babies during pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

Linda J. Holmes on Safe in a Midwife's Hands in conversation with Dr. Rochanda Mitchell

Linda J. Holmes has a conversation with, Dr. Rochanda Mitchell, Howard University Hospital Physician, and answers questions about her book and midwives.



Healing Words Podcast: #11 Linda Holmes - An Honorable Tradition: African American Midwifery


Concern over her own birthing experience launched Linda Holmes into the African American midwifery movement.

A researcher, curator and long-time women's health activist, Linda's articles and essays have been published in medical and feminist journals and have contributed to national and international recognition of the significance of African American midwifery.


Linda's first book on the subject, 'Listen to Me Good', was co-authored by preeminent Alabama midwife Margaret Charles Smith. Her current book 'Safe in a Midwife's Hands' was published this month. It includes the voices of diverse midwives of African descent across the diaspora- both past and present and has received acclaim from Ms. Magazine.