Brooklyn Nets present The Untold: Onesimus

Inoculation was introduced in America by a Boston slave named Onesimus. Very little is known about Onesimus except that he was born in Africa around the late 17th century and brought to Boston by the slave trade. When he arrived in Boston he was given as gift to Puritan church minister Cotton Mather. When an epidemic of smallpox moved through Boston, Onesimus, shared a technique that had been used in Africa for centuries with Cotton Mather. Mather then shared this same information with Dr. Zabdiel Bolystun. Heavily opposed, Dr. Bolystun proceeded to use the technique of a slave. Records later indicated that only 2% of patients died who had the inoculation vs. 15% who did not. The concept of inoculation to the United States remained the most effective means of treating the disease until the development of vaccination in 1796.

About The Untold

Presenting the stories you haven’t heard, and the stories you haven’t heard enough about. This is the mission of The Untold, bringing essential passages of our history to light through the eyes of modern-day Black historymakers: artists, activists, and athletes who push culture forward every day. Visit us each day in February for a new story as we present 28 untold stories of Black history.

View All Stories


  • Facebook
  • Twitter