In 1793, yellow fever took hold of Philadelphia. Jim Murphy describes the impact that this disease had on the city. This includes social, economical, and political impacts. In that time, Philadelphia was the country’s capital, and the president and his cabinet were all located near or in the city. With the scare of a plague many government officials and people of high economic class fled the city, leaving the poorest to fend for themselves.
This book does a good job of describing the setting before, during, and after the yellow fever epidemic. It is an engaging read that kept me intrigued throughout. I like that I was able to learn about the politics that were so prevalent in Philadelphia in the late 1700’s, as well as class and race relations. Of particular interest to me was the role that African Americans played in the resolution of this epidemic. Their impact is often overlooked when discussing this situation. I also enjoyed the lack of definite resolution at the end of the book. It did not sugar coat that this wasn’t the last of deadly epidemics in our history. It showed that we were vulnerable to more outbreaks of yellow fever as well as other diseases. This book may not be great for your middle school or younger children, as it does describe in some detail the gruesome symptoms of yellow fever. However, it is highly informative and thought provoking for high school aged kids.