From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Jo (slave)

(born: 1807) 

Jo, a slave born in Kentucky, was considered a rare medical oddity in the early 1800s when at the age of 12 his skin and hair began to turn white. Jo had moved to Missouri with his owner.

Jo's skin began to turn white with a patch at the edge of his hairline. He also lost his sense of smell. It took about ten years for his body to lose all skin pigmentation. Brown spots began to appear on his face and hands when he was about 22-years old.

Jo had had rubeola (measles) and pertussis (whooping cough) when he was a child and had both illnesses again after his skin began to change, along with chronic rheumatism and scarletina (scarlet fever). In spite of these illnesses, Jo was considered to be in very good health.

For more about this case see Joseph C. Hutchinson, M.D. (of Marshall, Salmie County, MO), "A Remarkable Case of Change of Complexion, with Loss of the Sense of Smell," American Journal of the Medical Sciences, vol. 45 (January 1852), pp. 146-148.

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NKAA Source: The American journal of the medical sciences (periodical)

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“Jo (slave),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 23, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-11-04 19:24:57