July 14th, 2022
TIME:6:00 pm ET

NYU-Gold Webinar: The Value of Life


For more information about the entire webinar series and other upcoming dates, click here.

This webinar aired with a live Q&A with Dr. Michael Ralph on July 14, 6:00-7:00 p.m. ET. You must have attended the live session to receive CME credit.

1 CME credit is just $10; the Gold Foundation is supporting this series and has committed to making CME credit affordable. The webinar is free for non-CME attendees. Donations to support the Gold Foundation’s work are optional and welcome. Full accreditation information is below. More accreditation information is below.

Download full CME information (PDF)


Michael Ralph, PhD
Department Chair and Professor of Afro-American Studies at Howard University
Instructor, New York University Grossman School of Medicine










I serve as Chair and Professor of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. I also teach in the New York University School of Medicine. My research integrates medical anthropology, finance, and politics through an explicit focus on algorithms, actuarial science, forensics, debt, slavery, and incarceration.

I am currently at work on two books that center on slavery, insurance, and incarceration. Life explores how the US insurance industry affixes monetary value to human life with more breadth and
nuance than any scholar has yet attempted. Breaking with the consensus among historians that slave insurance is distinct from life insurance because slaves were legally classified as property, I demonstrate that life insurance was built from the legal rationale and commercial logic of marine insurance and, later, slave insurance. While previous studies of slavery and insurance have largely focused on slaves as cargo, I reveal why people who held slaves in abundance preferred to rent rather than to sell them after the slave trade to the US was outlawed in 1808. Rented slaves were usually insured so planters could recover the value of these premium human assets if they died while in someone else’s possession. So many slaves were rented by private firms and entrepreneurial individuals that, during the last few decades of legalized slavery, a thriving market in slave insurance emerged that privileged slaves in select industries: those working in the most hazardous and lucrative enterprises (coal mining, railroad construction, steamboat traffic), artisans (cobblers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights), bureaucrats (clerks), and those with proven expertise in managing domestic affairs (cooks, butlers, barbers, drivers).

Website Links:

Dr. Michael Ralph’s Howard University webpage
Dr. Michael Ralph’s website


This lecture interrogates practices for inscribing the monetary value of human life, from antebellum protocols for insuring enslaved people to histories of incarceration. I show how these financial practices involved forms of clinical expertise and suggest how learning about these protocols can enhance clinical care.

i. To understand how protocols for assessing the monetary value of life draw on clinical expertise;
ii. To recognize forms of medicalization that have justified incarceration;
iii. To grapple with the porous boundary between policy concerning punishment and policy concerning social welfare.

The NYU Grossman School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

CREDIT DESIGNATION STATEMENTThe NYU Grossman School of Medicine designates this live activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.       PROVIDED BYNYU Grossman School of Medicine

For more information about the entire webinar series and other upcoming dates, click here.