Why Alice can Dance: The Story of Alice Ball

Mad Hatter – Chick Corea

In a world that is increasingly being filled with nobles and the notorious; it’s becoming more important to control the narrative and preserve the histories laid down before us. One of the primary reasons African traditions and their legacies are lost today is because it’s preservation was primarily oral. But today through Christ, many of those traditions will be restored; the good things that existed in the past shall be redeemed, while what is vile and worthless shall be tossed away. Now although Christ comes to redeem all, everyone will not receive the message. It’s unfortunate to have to cut off people who simply don’t gel well and then get upset afterwards. Whatever you must do, keep away from falsehoods. Don’t let a lie get to your head Alice.

Leaps over walls

Today I’ll talk a little about Alice Augusta Ball; an African American chemist that came with the most effective treatment for leprosy until the 1940’s. Her innovations in using oil extract to inject into the body was way ahead of her time. In the state of Hawaii, she is the archetype being the first African American to receive a Master’s Degree at the University of Hawaii and the first to become a chemistry professor there.

Alice was born to parents James Presley and Laura Louise (Howard) Ball on July 24, 1892 in Seattle, Washington. James was a newspaper editor, photographer, and a lawyer. Her grandfather James Ball Sr., was also a photographer widely remembered for being the first African American to learn a process of printing photographs onto metals called daguerreotype. See what is done here? Common names will often go through Historical cycles. To suggest otherwise goes against common sense.

ME: Alfred am I lying?
ALFRED: Nope

likes to move

Now Alice and her family moved to Honolulu as a child. They moved back to Seattle after one year. Apparently, the move was to keep Alice’s grandfather, James healthy. The cold in Seattle agitated his arthritis but he eventually died in Hawaii. Alice would return to school and obtain her bachelor’s in pharmaceutical chemistry at the Universal of Washington. Two years later, she would get a second degree in Pharmacy. After studying about Ether solutions, Alice would move back to Hawaii to get her final degree in Chemistry.

In Hawaii, Alice studied chaulmoogra oil and it’s chemical makeups. After discovering its water soluble form, ester ethyl, she was able to make historical discoveries to cure leprosy. She would later study the chemical properties of Piper methysticum which would be used to treat leprosy from 1866 – 1942. Her greatest advocate at the time was Dr. Harry T. Hollman, who being unsatisfied with the results Chaulmoogra oil provides, consulted Alice Ball for her findings in Piper methysticum. Every form of treatment with Chaulmoogra oil presented problems as it gave mixed results. It was first used as a topical directly from the tree as eastern medicine.

It was first used as a topical directly from the tree as eastern medicine.

Unfortunately, it was found too sticky for a topical and too painful as an injection. If used as an injection, blisters would be formed. If ingested, it would cause vomiting due to it’s putrid taste.

Ball’s wisdom allowed her to develop a technique that made chaulmoogra seeds palatable and absorbable by the body. She did this by isolating ethyl ester compounds from their fatty acids. She called it, “The Ball Method” but died before she was able to publish her findings. Arthur L. Dean picked up after her work and continued research, publishing his findings. He renamed the method, “The Dean Method” without giving Ball credit. Thankfully he would eventually get called out for this. The procedure remained the preferred treatment for leprosy until breakthroughs using sulfonamide drugs appeared in the 1940s.

Alice Augusta Ball died on December 31, 1916 at the age of 24. She became ill during her research and returned to Seattle for treatment a few months before her death. The true cause of her death is unknown as her original death certificate was altered stating that the cause of death is tuberculosis.

Vertical points

This story is to commend a woman who made significant impact on people who suffered from leprosy; and to show how often Black History is treated as lice; what effect of erasure and ignorance has on the psyche, as if leeches are eating away at memories. The Good News is that it doesn’t have to be this way; the spirit of Alice continues on today doesn’t it? And there are sure fire ways now to cure the toughest of diseases; His Word. And as we feast on His Truth like little maggots we’ll find greater freedom, greater knowledge, greater healing than what we are accustomed to.

ME: Isn’t that write Alfred?
ALFRED: If God says so.

Did God say so? You see, certain things don’t have to be difficult. It’s simple once you learn how to commune. It’s no secret as to how eager God wants to restore His people. The question is: are we willing to reposition ourselves?

Questions to Consider:

  • You may not be a chemist, but you are always combining solutions with your thoughts, words, and actions. What formulas could you test to bring about healing in your life and those around you?
  • How self-sufficient are you? In what ways are you dependent on others?
  • What ways can you learn to control the narrative in your own life.
  • In what ways can we ‘write away injustice’? Are the correlations between ‘personal policies’ and politics?

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