The Story of CC331

 Jordan Mitchell, Department of Biology, University of Maryland-College Park ‘18

Jordan Rashad Howard, Department of Biological and Physical Sciences, South Carolina State University ‘18


Editor’s Note     

This series of biographical sketches were authored by the 2015 class of the Howard University branch of AAMC’s Summer Medical Dental Enrichment Program at the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory. The students were assigned a Cobb Collection Individual and conducted research about that individual. The papers were reviwed by The Backbone Editorial Team and the name of the CC individual was redacted.

Born in the year 1915, CC331 was a colored female native to the southern state of Georgia. The name of her mother, father, and other relatives are unknown, however she did have a sister by the name of Maude Jackson. Times were very rough for African American families because discrimination against black communities in Georgia was prevalent. Being that CC331 lived in America during this time of widespread racial imbalance, she more than likely was not born to family of wealth. As many African Americans suffered from countless acts of segregation and prejudice between 1882-1930, over 458 blacks were deprived of their right of citizenship, and denied admission to various public settings including restaurants, hotels, and professional societies.

During this time, Jim Crow Laws  provided a strong support system for this reoccurring racial injustice preventing African Americans from establishing and developing relationships with people not of color. For example, specifically in Georgia:

“It was unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white person…[an] officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons... [or even] all persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, [were only to] serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license.” (NPS)

These laws denied African Americans from various rights that they deserved. It was not until 1965 until these laws were made illegal throughout the United States.

In addition to dealing with a racial war of segregation and inequality, CC331 also lived during World War II. Taking place between the years 1939-1945, the effects of World War II were emotionally and physically damaging. During this time, over 2.5 million black men registered for the draft. Aside from casualties stemming from direct combat, external situations also occurred which caused distress in people’s lives. One of the most notable external situations was the utilization of concentration camps by the Nazi to prosecute the Jewish people. World War II affected people’s lives in a negative way because the resulting carnage and distress it created left many people homeless and burdened with monumental costly damage. Although this might not have affected CC331 personally, there is a high possibility that one of her family members might have served in the war. However, this information is unknown.

Most schools in the south during this time period  were very segregated as there were separate schools for both black and white students. It is also unspecified the length of time in which CC331 lived in Georgia. In 1930, Georgia spent about $43 per person for a white student, but only spent $10 for a black student. From this it can be assumed that CC331 did not get as great of an education as her white counterparts. CC331’s education may also have been affected by her lower cultural capital. Cultural capital refers to the relationship of one’s socialization and cultural activities. Examples of aspects that can be considered as cultural capital include interest in the art of music, literature and histrionics (Matthijs and Kraaykamp). Because CC331’s circumstances might not have granted her access to such opportunities, it also might have had regressive impact on the advancement of her education.

Later in her life, CC331 and possibly her family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. She lived on 1126 Duvall Street. Unfortunately, racial discrimination in Florida was no less common than in Georgia. Blacks dealt with white supremacy and racial dismay on a regular basis. In fact, Florida led the nation in the highest number of lynching per capita. Massive attacks on the black community occurred on November 2, 1920 and in Rosewood of January 1923. These attacks resulted in the burning down of many African American homes. The exact date and time in which Willie relocated to Jacksonville, Florida is undetermined. No matter where she moved or lived, there is a strong possibility that CC331 faced hatred from people not of color simply because of her skin color.

    As CC331 progressed through life, she lived a life as a transient worker, traveling around from place to place doing small jobs. Her skill level as it pertains to job qualification is unknown. After once upon a time residing in both Georgia and Florida, CC331 eventually made her way to Washington DC. Although there is no solidified justification for her relocation to DC, it can be assumed that this second known move  might have been in search of better work opportunities.

Unfortunately, on June 20th, 1944 at the age of twenty-nine, CC331 died of Diabetes Mellitus Ketoacidosis at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington D.C. Freedmen’s Hospital, now known as Howard University Hospital was founded in 1862 by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams. The enforcement of the Jim Crow laws and segregation during the 1940s in the south served as a barrier between blacks and access to healthcare. A possible reason why CC331 might have chosen to relocate to Washington D.C. was probably because it was the only location closest her with a hospital that openly served people of color.  

For decades, African Americans “have had the worst health care, the worst health status, and the worst health outcome of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S” (Byrd). Most treatment was biased and unfair until more black individuals became physicians and other healthcare professionals. It was not until after 1965 when black health care began to improve.

In the 1940s, there was a lack of various treatments and health care for multiple. Equally prevalent in both males and females and generally occurring in people twenty-five and younger, Diabetes Mellitus Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a form of metabolic acidosis that is the result of a lack of glucose in the body and can be identified as chronic or mild. When there is insufficient glucose in the body, the body begins burning fat, muscle, and liver cells, and using them as a means to obtain the necessary amount of energy required for daily activity. Because of glucose insufficiency, substances known as ketones produced by oxidation begin to develop within the body. The presence of ketones leads to problems such as an increase in blood sugar, which can disable the kidneys from retaining extra sugar. Dehydration is the result of ketones in the urine and can make urination immoderate. This excessive urination may cause loss of vital body fluids and essential elements such as certain salts and potassium. Ketone buildup in the body can cause the body to become poisoned because of the acidity it causes.

DKA has the potential to affect anyone with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but is more likely to affect those who have type 1. Symptoms include low blood sugar, high fever, lack of insulin, confusion, lethargy, dry skin, acetone breath, extreme thirst, frequent urination, vomiting, abdominal pain, low blood pressure, general weakness, increased heart rate, difficulty of and or rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and loss of appetite. People at risk include those who have experienced heart attack, stroke, trauma, stress, alcohol abuse, or who smoke. DKA can cause shock or even death if left untreated. Although deadly, this disease can be treated, with the proper health care. Methods of treatment are usually the introduction of sodium bicarbonate into the body, fluid replacement, or insulin administration intravenously, which is also known as insulin therapy. Although these treatments are beneficial, they also have side effects and potential complications such as low blood sugar, low potassium, both pulmonary and cerebral edema, seizure and cardiorespiratory arrest.

These treatments are very beneficial because they help to prolong the lives of people with this illness, but prevention and self-awareness of health is better. People that already have diabetes are more prone to DKA. However, there are ways to help prevent individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes from progressing to this horrible disease. Small anatomical and physiological maintenance such as staying hydrated, monitoring blood sugar levels, injections of an acting form of insulin, consumption of sugar free fluids, and awareness of certain infections are helpful methods. Reliable examinations to help in the detection of DKA include arterial blood gas, potassium blood tests, amylase blood function tests, serum electrolytes, blood testing strips. In the case of Willie Mae, it is  more likely that she suffered from type 1 diabetes and it developed into to ketoacidosis. Chest x-rays, an electrocardiogram, CT scans of the brain, and urine analyses are also utilized to check for the presence of this illness. Because of disadvantages, such as finances and racial inequality, CC331 probably did not have access to some of these methods of testing for the presence of this illness. In the case of the CT brain scan, it had not been invented at the time.

A lot has changed since CC331 has died, especially the rights of African Americans and the abolishment of segregation. Although there is still racial prejudice in today’s society, it is not as prevalent as it was during the 1920s-1940s. African Americans have access to better health care and there is more advancement in treatments of disease.

It was not until the late 1940s when insulin syringes became available, which was after CC331 had died. Today, there are better treatments for diabetes and people have better control over their sugar levels. Back then African Americans did not have healthcare or any means of paying for treatment unless they paid for it themselves. If so, it was very hard for an African American to get medical treatment unless it was at a hospital run by black individuals. Currently, the United States has Medicaid, which is health insurance to aid people that are not as wealthy, such as CC331. Also, under the Affordable Care Act, passed on March 23, 2010, African Americans now have better health care coverage, quality, and financial security. Because of this act, there are less health care disparities and fewer African Americans are uninsured.

Diabetes was rare among the African Americans population before the 1940’s. During this decade, a connection was made between diabetes and the long -term complication of kidney disease. In 1936 diabetes was divided into groups based on insulin sensitivity, but there was no clear distinction of the type until 1959. There may have been a possibility that even if CC331 had access to treatment, there would not have been a solidified conclusion as to whether or not the disease stemmed from insulin dependent or non-insulin dependent diabetes. She also did not have the chance to receive aid from oral drugs that would have helped lower her blood glucose levels due to the fact that these drugs were not introduced until 1955.

Today, there are thousands of new treatments and medical breakthroughs for diabetes, specifically for Diabetes Mellitus Ketoacidosis. If CC331 were still living today, she would be better off and most likely lived a healthier lifestyle. In America today, there are more resources available for African Americans that they did not have access to in the past. If she had the proper treatment and was able to control her sugar and insulin levels, she could have lived longer than twenty-nine. Also, CC331 might have been able to find better work other than being a transient worker. She would have been more educated and she could have been better off in general.

CC331 was a colored individual that died at the age of twenty-nine. Throughout her life, she lived in both Georgia and Florida during a very rough time in America as a colored female. There is very few information known about this individual besides her place of birth, death, and cause of death. Assumptions can be made with the select identified information, but it may not be as accurate. Although not much is known of CC331, she seemed like a wonderful individual. ***


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Mr. Jordan Rashad Howard ( is a native of Savannah Georgia and a class of 2014 graduate of Herschel V. Jenkins High School. He is currently a sophomore undergraduate student attending South Carolina State University pursuing a degree in Biology with minors in both psychology and chemistry. With the goal of becoming a pediatrician, Jordan has been consistently involved in various programs geared toward preparing young aspiring physician students for medical school and medical careers. Such programs include the medical explorer post program, the Georgia Medical Society Student Preceptorship Program, and most recently the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at Howard University in which he had the opportunity to conduct research with the staff members of the Montague Cobb Research Lab. In addition to these physician preparation and education programs, Jordan is also an active member of the Marching 101 band of South Carolina State University in which he is section leader of the saxophone section. He also plays with the university’s pep bad and premier wind ensemble, is a member of the University’s Honors College, a member of Health Professions Society, and a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America Incorporated. Some of his hobbies include playing video games, playing the alto saxophone, reading, and drawing people. He has volunteered in various community service projects including Relay for Life, helping with the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots and Operation Christmas Child. He also currently volunteers at the Felton Laboratory School as a mentor you young elementary and middle school kids. Jordan Howard is also a Gates Millennium Scholar. After graduating from South Carolina State Jordan plans on attending medical school in order to receive his M.D. and pursue a lifelong career or service in pediatrics.

Ms. Jordan Mitchell ( is a current sophomore at the University of Maryland- College Park from altimore, MD. She is a Biology major specializing in Neurobiology & Physiology on a pre-med track and a College Park Life Sciences Scholar.  Jordan is an active member of her schools community. She belongs to her schools Charles R. Drew Pre-Medical Society and is a tutor in math, science, and reading for children between the ages of 9-11. In addition, she is training to become an EMT in the upcoming year. This past summer Jordan had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the 2015 Howard SDMEP program. While at Howard University, she was able to work with and meet some of the amazing Cobb Research Lab staff. After she graduates she plans to attend medical school and someday become an orthopedic surgeon.

Cobb Lab