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Library Bulletin Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Library -- New Orleans
The Star is Born
In 1941, a small newsletter was published by residents of Carville, Louisiana. This newsletter was remarkable because it was the first patient publication of its kind: one that set out to eradicate fears and hearsay about Hansen's disease, more commonly known by its older name, leprosy. Carville, Louisiana was the last treatment center for Hansen's disease in the continental United States. Sometimes called the last "leper colony," Carville is about 85 miles upriver from New Orleans. The first patients were taken to the center by coal barge from New Orleans.
On the publication of that inaugural edition the editor remarked:
"We…some sixteen members of the patient body, have hitched our wagon to THE STAR because we sincerely believe that it will fill an important place in the life of our community. Further, this it will provide an excellent means of occupational therapy…A prominent Public Health Official remarked, "It is unfortunate that the general public is not conversant with the real facts concerning Hanson's Disease." We plan to publish many of these facts and to contradict the mass of misinformation that is constantly published in even the best newspapers and magazines."1
Contradicting the misinformation about leprosy was needed. In the 1890's, residents of New Orleans were terrified to learn that a treatment center for leprosy could be located in their city, so a more isolated location was selected. Even in the isolated setting, the lease of a plantation in Carville was done under the pretense that it was going to be an ostrich farm2.
Although Carville no longer houses patients with Hansen's Disease, (many of them are older and have relocated to a long term care facility in Baton Rouge), the STAR still publishes newsletters twice a year, promoting educated public opinion of Hansen's disease and furnishing vocational rehabilitation for interested patients.3 The Carville colony is now the National Hansen's Disease Museum4, offering exhibits and walking tours as well as various archives.
LSU Health Sciences Center Libraries is proud to collaborate with the Museum and the Louisiana Digital Library to offer a complete full-text run of The Star, 1941-2001. The collection consists of 429 digitized color issues of the newsletter in PDF, as well as two subject indexes to facilitate research. Content is available for free to search and download. Access the collection at http://www.louisianadigitallibrary.org/cdm4/index_p15140coll52.php?CISOROOT=/p15140coll52
-- Molly Knapp
1 "The STAR is born." The STAR. 1(1): 6 (September 1941). http://www.louisianadigitallibrary.org/u?/p15140coll52,659 Retrieved 6 February 2012.