Drapetomania was described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 as the mental illness which causes black slaves to flee captivity. He claimed that the disorder was the result of white owners treating their slaves as equals, which in turn caused the slave to not fulfill his or her duty. The treatment for symptoms were to simply never treat slaves like equals, and to speak to them more like children than adults.
If a slave truly suffered from drapetomania, the “cure” was the removal of the big toes. Cartwright’s article was widely dispersed in the South, yet even at the time was known to be flawed and widely mocked throughout the North.