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The story of the only leprosy colony in the continental United States, and the thousands of Americans who were exiled—hidden away with their “shameful” disease.
Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the Mississippi River curls around an old plantation thick with trees, with a stately white manor house at its heart. Locals knew it as Carville—the site of the only leprosarium in the continental United States from 1894 until 1999, where generations of afflicted Americans were isolated, often until death. While experts today know that leprosy is not nearly as contagious as once feared, there remains a virulent stigma around those who suffer from it. Pam Fessler tells the story of Carville’s patients against the backdrop of America’s slowly shifting attitudes toward those cast aside as “others.” She also reveals how patients rallied together with an unlikely team of nuns, researchers, and doctors to find a cure for the disease, and to fight the insidious stigma that surrounded it. With original interviews and newly discovered archival material, Fessler presents an essential history of one of America’s most shameful secrets.
About the Author: Pam Fessler is an award-winning correspondent with NPR News, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.