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Working the Roots: Over 400 Years of Traditional African American Healing
Michele Elizabeth Lee


African American traditional medicine is an American classic that emerged out of the necessity of its people to survive. It began with the healing knowledge brought with the African captives on the slave ships and later merged with Native American, European and other healing traditions to become a full-fledged body of medicinal practices that has lasted in various forms down to the present day.

Working the Roots: Over 400 Years Of Traditional African American Healing is the result of first-hand interviews, conversations, and apprenticeships conducted and experienced by author Michele E. Lee over several years of living and studying in the rural South and in the West Coast regions of the United States. She combines a novelist's keen ear for storytelling and dialogue and a healer's understanding of folk medicine arts into a book that makes for both pleasant, interesting reading, and serves as a permanent household healing guide.

Divided between sections on interviews of healers and their stories and a comprehensive collection of traditional African American medicines, remedies, and the many common ailments they were called upon to cure, Working The Roots is a valuable addition to African American history and American and African folk healing practices.


Michele Elizabeth Lee has worked for over 30 years in the integrated arts field as a visual arist, curator, administrator, educator, and writer. She has a MFA from the University of Southern California and a BA from Antioch College. She is a native of Oakland, California, who was raised in a family of traditional healers from the South. She currently lives and works in her native Oakland, where she teaches art in a public school. She has two adult children, Milon and Nora.


"I love this book! Working the Roots is an impressively well-written account of African American root medicine that reads like an adventure novel and is hard to put down. The book is an invaluable treasure for anthropologists, ethno-botanists, historians, herbalists, and others wanting a look inside the uncharted terrain of African American root and folk medicine." --Dr. Gail P. Myers, Cultural anthropologist and filmmaker

"Working the Roots is an example and testimony of African tradition that permeates the Americas and speaks to the widespread and in-depth knowledge African people possess about health and healing. Luck for us to now have this wealth of invaluable knowledge at our finger-tips."--Opal Palmer Adisa, Distinguished professor, poet, novelist, and photographer

"This book is fundamental to the deeper understudying of a culture that usually is glossed over and commandeered or down played way too often. Working The Roots is my story as it is in many different degrees, the story of all Afro-Americans." --Opensanwo Ifakorede Fadario, Traditional health consultant, healer, visual artist, and initiated Ifa practitioner

Wadastick  /  December 15, 2017

0.81" H x 11.0" L x 8.5" W (2.01 lbs) 396 pages