Each year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) sets a theme for February’s Black History Month, and this year, they’ve chosen the impact and importance of Black Health and Wellness. According to their website, “this theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalis, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora.
This immediately brings to mind a wonderful educational film in the Library’s collection called “All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story” (1953).
Directed by George Stoney and produced by the Georgia Department of Public Health, the film profiles the life and work of “Miss Mary” Coley, a Black midwife living in rural Georgia. The movie was made to educate doctors, midwives, schools and health departments about midwifery in the Black community.
With a joyous soundtrack scored by Louis Applebaum and performed by the Musical Art Chorus in Washington, D.C., we follow Miss Mary as she prepares for and delivers babies in two different socio-economic conditions. She’s a midwife, advisor, friend, nurse and mother-figure to these women, and if you’ve never seen a baby being born, you will find the film even more fascinating.
“All My Babies” was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2002.
You can watch the film in the Library of Congress National Screening Room, and we encourage you to read this essay featuring a more in depth look at the filmmakers and Miss Mary, who served as a collaborator on the film.