March 27, 2020
What is Old is New and What is New is Old
Board of Health quarantine notice, 1918
We are all worried these days about COVID-19, its impact and the state of events of our nation and the world. Historically, quarantining has been used over the centuries to prevent the deadly transmission of diseases. Defined “ as a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed ,” the practice of quarantining dates back to 8 th century B.C. In fact, it is even discussed in The Bible’s book of Leviticus:

HistoryMaker and educator Marie Louise Greenwood (1912 - 2019) recalled the flu pandemic of 1918: “… the flu epidemic had gotten so big, so massive all over everywhere in Prescott [Arizona], that stores were closed because the store owners couldn't even, well they were dying or they were sick and there were so many--the teachers were out, the children were out and finally they had to close the schools… The schools did not open until spring of 1919 .” [1]
Soldiers with protective face masks, 1918
 Chicago-based Liberty Supreme Life Insurance Company owner Lloyd Wheeler (1907 - 2005) also remembered the devastation of the 1918 pandemic, “ The flu had us all, that influenza had the whole family down. He’s [my father’s] three days later, he's in a coffin. That old flu just came through that fast. It was a terrible thing .” [2] During our COVID19 pandemic, it has been reported that “… the potential health impacts are comparable to the devastating 1918 influenza outbreak, and would ‘kind of overwhelm health system capacity in any developed country, including the United States,’ unless measures to reduce the spread of the virus are taken .” [3] According to  Nicholas Christakis , Co-Director of Yale Institute of Network Science, it is unlikely we will experience the same level of impact as in 1918. He states: “ Flu pandemics recur reliably, but unpredictably every decade or so, and their extent and intensity varies. With COVID19, we may be in midst of a once-every-50-years event, perhaps similar to 1957 pandemic, but not as bad as the 1918 pandemic ”. [ 4 ]
An empty classroom due to the flu outbreak, 1957
With the 1957 flu pandemic where the H2N2 virus was first reported in Singapore in February 1957, Hong Kong in April 1957, and in coastal cities in the United States in summer 1957 and an estimated 1.1 million died worldwide with a 116,000 deaths in the United States. [5]
HistoryMaker, mathematician and former Chancellor of Southern University Dolores R. Spikes (1936 - 2015) recalled this period in her interview : “… there was an epidemic of the Asian flu. And if you didn't have a fever of 104 degrees or something, you didn't see a doctor. Best thing they do is go home and try to get your fever down 'cause we have no more hospital--place--no more doctors. And I know I missed about three weeks of school, but most kids did .” [6] During this time, most of the Western world enacted measures similar to those being imposed on us today, including “ the closure of schools, churches, and theaters and the suspension of public gatherings… Yale University canceled all on-campus public meetings, and some churches in Italy suspended confessions and funeral ceremonies. Physicians encouraged the use of measures like respiratory hygiene and social distancing .” [7]
The practice of self-isolation or quarantining has been used consistently to stem the effects of a pandemic. With COVID19, health professionals are asking us to engage in social distancing and self quarantining. Businesses and other institutions have been asked to shut down causing an negative impact on the economy. Mid-March saw the Dow and the FTSE experience their largest one day declines since 1987. But this is not new. The National Bureau of Economic Research noted that “… a recession began in August 1918 and ran through the next March. The flu probably wasn't the cause… [there was] little trace of the pandemic in international trade, retail sales, railroad passenger traffic and stock prices. They saw some effect on industrial production, which fell sharply in October and November but that was in part due to falling defense production as World War I drew to a close .” [8] Like the 1918 influenza pandemic, “ the 1957 outbreak did not appear to have a significant impact on the U.S. economy… a Congressional Budget Office estimate found that a pandemic the scale of which occurred in 1957 would reduce real GDP by approximately 1% ‘but probably would not cause a recession and might not be distinguishable from the normal variation in economic activity’ .” [9] For us, only time will tell. But for now, we all must play a role and as the old folks say: "This too shall pass.”
[1] Marie Louise Greenwood (The HistoryMakers A2006.078), interviewed by Shawn Wilson, April 19, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 3, Marie Louise Greenwood recalls beginning kindergarten.
[2] Lloyd Wheeler (The HistoryMakers A2002.111), interviewed by Larry Crowe, July 23, 2002, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 2, Lloyd Wheeler recounts life after his father's death.
[3] Sheri Fink. "White House Takes New Line After Dire Report on Death Toll." New York Times Company . March 16, 2020.
[4] Nicholas A. Christakis. "Flu pandemics recur reliably but unpredictably..." Twitter. March 14, 2020.
[5] “1957-1958 Pandemic (H2N2 virus).” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 
[6] Dolores R. Spikes (The HistoryMakers A2008.065), interviewed by Larry Crowe, March 27, 2008, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 2, Dolores R. Spikes recalls her living situation at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
[7] Eugenia Tognotti, “Lessons from the History of Quarantine, from Plague to Influenza A,” Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol. 19, No. 2, February 2013.
[8] Ip Greg, Danny Dougherty, and Anthony DeBarros. "Lessons for the Coronavirus Crisis from Six Other Disasters; from Spanish Flu to Japanese Tsunami, Governments Grappled with the Trade-Off between Public Health and Economic Stability." Wall Street Journal (Online) , March 20, 2020.
[9] D. A. Henderson, Brooke Courtney, Thomas V. Inglesby, Eric Toner, and Jennifer B. Nuzzo. “Public Health and Medical Responses to the 1957-58 Influenza Pandemic.” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science Volume 7, Number 3, 2009.
Black Enterprise 's Women of Power Summit 2020
From L to R: Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Phylicia Rashad, Cynthia Marshall, Jane Kennedy , Renee Powell, Caroline Clarke, Earl "Butch" Graves Jr., Beverly Tatum, Julieanna Richardson, Valerie Daniels-Carter, Audrey Smaltz, and Hon. Alexis Herman
Student Brand Ambassadors
The HistoryMakers student brand ambassadors Shanita Sanders, of Arkansas State University, and Syerra Williams, of Morgan State University, promote use of The HistoryMakers Digital Archive and website to others on their campus including faculty, students, administrators and campus clubs/organizations, multi-cultural facilities, the arts, digital humanities, alumni groups and career centers.
Shanita Sanders
Arkansas State University, Master's Candidate
Syerra Williams
Morgan State University, Class of 2021
In February, Sanders and Williams attended The HistoryMakers Higher Education Advisory Board Meeting in Arlington, Virginia, where Sanders presented on her work at Arkansas State. They also launched a campus-wide Black History Month Digital Archive Contest during Black History Month 2020, during which Sanders called on her classmates to submit essays, poetry, spoken word performances, or visual arts inspired by stories of Pan Africanism that they found in the Digital Archive. The HistoryMakers brand ambassadors have also recently launched a blog, which can be accessed here:
Favorite Quote

"The Only Dream You Cannot Realize Is The Dream You've Never Had."

Dr. Lillian M. Beard
Pediatrician & Author
We're here to help!

Please direct questions about The HistoryMakers Digital Archive to: