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To Make the Wounded Whole

The African American Struggle against HIV/AIDS

By Dan Royles

332 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6133-9
    Published: September 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5950-3
    Published: September 2020
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5951-0
    Published: July 2020

Justice, Power, and Politics

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Awards & distinctions

Honorable Mention, 2021 John Boswell Prize, The Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, American Historical Association

In the decades since it was identified in 1981, HIV/AIDS has devastated African American communities. Members of those communities mobilized to fight the epidemic and its consequences from the beginning of the AIDS activist movement. They struggled not only to overcome the stigma and denial surrounding a "white gay disease" in Black America, but also to bring resources to struggling communities that were often dismissed as too "hard to reach." To Make the Wounded Whole offers the first history of African American AIDS activism in all of its depth and breadth. Dan Royles introduces a diverse constellation of activists, including medical professionals, Black gay intellectuals, church pastors, Nation of Islam leaders, recovering drug users, and Black feminists who pursued a wide array of grassroots approaches to slow the epidemic's spread and address its impacts. Through interlinked stories from Philadelphia and Atlanta to South Africa and back again, Royles documents the diverse, creative, and global work of African American activists in the decades-long battle against HIV/AIDS.

About the Author

Dan Royles is assistant professor of history at Florida International University.
For more information about Dan Royles, visit the Author Page.


"Royles’s project is of grand and urgent scope. He writes a history of African American reactions to HIV/AIDS over the past 40 years—historicizing protest, conspiracy, denial, structural inequity, and countless forms of bias—while also capturing a movement in progress. . . . To Make the Wounded Whole—with its seven case studies on moments in the movement, each detailed, finely researched, and compassionately written—engages in a rich conversation about Black activism within the AIDS epidemic across almost half a century."--Los Angeles Review of Books

"Royles has delivered a masterfully nuanced yet clearly rendered account of one of the greatest challenges to African American health and politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Historians and public health professionals alike will particularly appreciate To Make the Wounded Whole for its close attention to the intertwined social histories of Black gay organizational politics, gender justice, and public health policy and practice."--Samuel Kelton Roberts Jr., author of Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation

"To Make the Wounded Whole is original and important. It challenges the notion that African Americans were passive, powerless, or oppositional in addressing the health crisis, demonstrating that Black LGBTQ activists and their allies developed powerful and influential community-based responses to the AIDS epidemic."--Marc Stein, author of Sexual Injustice: Supreme Court Decisions from Griswold to Roe

"To Make the Wounded Whole is a brilliant account of African Americans’ underappreciated grassroots responses to the AIDS epidemic. Drawing on scrupulous archival research and enlightening oral histories, Royles limns the courageous and complex efforts of the Black queer, religious, and civil rights communities that yoked healthcare priorities to social, spiritual, and political ones. This important book strikingly documents this multifaceted health activism and its novel array of healing strategies. A groundbreaking, essential contribution to social history, African American history, the history of sexuality, and the social studies of health."--Alondra Nelson, author of Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination