The phrase “each one, teach one” is an African proverb that was used in the United States during slavery, when Africans were denied education. When an enslaved person got the unusual opportunity to learn to read, it became his duty to teach someone else. This is one of the things the early African-Americans did to lift themselves out of the oppression in which they found themselves following their mass abduction and enslavement.
Today, a small percentage of Certified Professional Midwives or Licensed Midwives are African American, but African midwives predate the country itself (the first African midwife came here in 1619.) Black midwives assisted women in labor throughout the slavery period of U.S. history. They were called “granny” midwives, or grand midwives, and they were much needed and highly respected within their communities.
Today’s midwives have inherited a rich tradition of caring for women and communities from the African-American midwives who came before us. Perhaps this legacy is related to the “each one, teach one,” approach that is still widely used, with the apprenticeship model, in midwifery education today.
I owe much of my knowledge and all of my skills to the dedicated midwives who taught me during my apprenticeships. Someday, when the time is right, I bet I will feel a duty to pass the torch in turn.
It’s a lovely thing to share the art and science of this important work with others. So when I had the chance to help teach a class on birth assisting with a fellow midwife last weekend, I was thrilled. The fresh, lovely faces of these dedicated new birth workers were inspiring to behold. They gave me a pretty sweet gift - a chance to be on the giving side of each one, teach one. I wish them all a wondrous journey in this work.
Kassia Walcott is a Texas Licensed Midwife, Certified Professional Midwife, and lover of mothers, babies, children, animals and nature. A homeschooling mother of three, she lives in Plano with her family, pets, and herb garden, where she loves to read and drink too much coffee.