The quote below is exactly the experience of so many acupuncturists (including us) and reveals a glaring omission in acupuncture education about the importance of Black history in the story of acupuncture in America.
“I attended a masters degree program in the US for Chinese medicine, and in the 3.5 years it took to complete the program to become a licensed acupuncturist, I was never taught a crucial piece of history about acupuncture in America: it was first popularized by black and hispanic people.
The story I was taught was that Nixon went to China in 1971 and while he was there, a reporter from the New York Times, James Reston, had to get an emergency appendectomy. When the hospital used acupuncture for his pain relief, he was so stunned about how well it worked he wrote about in the newspaper. This was the first formal introduction of acupuncture to the public and started a gradual interest among mostly white men to professionalize acupuncture within school settings and state regulations.
What my teachers left out of this history, is a much more interesting story: outside of Asian-American communities, members of the Black Panthers and Young Lords, two very important civil rights groups, were actually some of the first people in the US to widely practice acupuncture. Here’s an abbreviated history:”
Check out this zine “Acupuncture is Activism.” The zine tells an often neglected history of Black healthcare justice activism and its connection with acupuncture in America. Lots of great links to other resources too!