Deirdre Cooper Owens, PhD

TIME Magazine calls her one of the country’s most “acclaimed experts in U.S. history.” Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens is an award-winning author, historian, and reproductive justice activist. She is THE expert on Black maternal health disparities and medical racism. Her latest ground-breaking research is on the history of  Harriet Tubman’s disability.

Past Speaking Engagements

Cherry Bekaert LLP
Illinois Association for Behavioral Health
Cornerstone League
Myovant Sciences
The Federal Reserve
United Nations
March of Dimes
Brooklyn Historical Society
The Speed Art Museum
London School of Economics
The Schomburg Center

Speaking Options

Bias And Anti-Racism In The Medical Field

Medical racism is inarguable. Dr. Cooper Owens will provide a snapshot of the dismal state of medical racism for people of color using an engaging historical lens. In this talk, she also offers up necessary solutions and calls to action on how to provide necessary anti-racist medical care. Think of this talk as the “Roots” version of history + medicine.

National Minority Health: Protecting Black Women/Birthing People + Their Children + Families

In this talk, Dr. Cooper Owens deepens the national conversation about Black maternal and birthing people’s health by centering the voices and experiences of Black women. She hopes to inspire audiences to support efforts to protect Black women, birthing people, and their children caught in the matrix of a harmful birthing crisis.

Juneteenth 1865 & 2024

Dr. Cooper Owens paints a picture of what led up to that historic day in Galveston, Texas at the time of Juneteenth, 1865.  Through storytelling and historical facts, she brings vivid history to life. Known for her dynamic speaking style and ability to pull an audience into her love of Black history, participants will leave this talk with a deeper and more factual understanding of this national celebration.

What Harriet Tubman’s Life Can Teach Us About Inclusive Excellence

As a disabled freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman navigated seemingly insurmountable obstacles and emerged triumphant. Historian Deirdre Cooper Owens uses Tubman’s life and practices as a model for how we can emulate the principles of inclusivity and excellence that she helped develop years ago. A masterful storyteller, Cooper Owens uses humor and history to not only educate but inspire those with whom she engages. This is an excellent keynote for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), women’s empowerment, and disability awareness.

Beyond Black History

How do many Americans learn about black history? Sadly, it is often broached through a trivia-style approach instead of treated as necessary history in academic classrooms and corporate programs. What Dr. Cooper Owens knows is the real impact and value of Black History is about more than “firsts” and “the only.” In this talk, she contextualizes how Black history offers a more holistic interpretation of American history by dispelling countless myths. The audience will walk away with a deeper understanding of the contributions of people of color. (And for the record, George Washington Carver didn’t invent the peanut or peanut butter!) This keynote is a celebration of Black Excellence.

Selected Media

Southern Symbols

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, & Origins of American Gynecology



“Dr. Cooper-Owens is amazing! The way in which she delivers her message with style, grace, facts, and storytelling is phenomenal. The McDonald‘s system was not only enlightened but, grateful and honored for the gems she left us. The system was singing her praises while she delivered her message. It was difficult to listen to her as my phone kept vibrating from my peers telling me how awesome she is. Dr. Cooper-Owens is extremely knowledgeable in so many areas. It showed throughout the delivery of her message. If I could listen to her 7 days a week… I wouldn’t, I’d listen to her 8. Dr. Cooper-Owens is “Must See TV”.
David Dennis, Operations Associate I SOLA Delivery Lead/GHOA Delivery Co-Lead, McDonald’s Corporation

Cynthia Daneil - Diversity & Culture Leader Diversity & Culture Leader Cherry Bekaert LLP

“We had the pleasure of having Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens as our guest for our Black History Speaker Event.  Dr. Cooper Owens’ talk, Beyond Black History, is very compelling and her discussion on Black history resonated well with our audience members. Her ability to break down history to a level that is engaging and easy to follow was a big win for our Firm. In just the last few days, many of our employees have shared how her approach provided them with valuable insights into Black History and intrigued their interest to want to learn more. We are grateful for her presence at our event and hope to have her again in the future.”
Cynthia Daniel, Diversity & Culture Leader, Cherry Bekaert LLP 

“Dr. Cooper Owens is a terrific speaker who is able to break down historical content in a way that is accessible to myriad audiences. She delivers difficult subject matter about the intersections of race and medicine with care and ease, compelling listeners to pay close attention and enthusiastically enter the conversation (when appropriate) by posing questions and offering comments. Every time I hear Dr. Cooper Owens speak, I am in awe of her command of the stage, the breadth of her research, and her commitment to engaging the public without pretense.” 
Michelle D Commander, PhD, Assoc. Director and Curator of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery, NY, NY.

“Dr. Cooper Owens revolutionizes the context in which we frame gynecology. She changes the way we approach patients and encourages the understanding of the burdens of generational traumas and societal burdens in gynecology. Virtually or in person, no one else is as exact as an educator as Dr. Cooper Owens. Her talks are a must add to anyone trying to change and challenge the current narrative of medical norms.”
Sallie Sarrel, Co-Founder, The Endometriosis Summit 

“Dr. Cooper Owens has provided incredible insight around medical racism in the US. We are grateful for her expertise and contributions!”
Danielle Keiser, Exec. Dir. and Founder, Menstrual Health Hub

Carrie Myers Photo in Circle with Orange Border​”Dr. Cooper Owens is phenomenal! I have heard her speak numerous times and never pass up the opportunity to do so again. I’m so glad we were able to host her at UNMC and for our students, faculty, and staff to discuss health humanities with her. The best-reviewed program we had this year.”
Carrie Meyer, Assistant Professor, Head of Special Collections and Archives, Leon S. McGoogan Health Sciences Library, University of Nebraska Medical Center

About Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens

Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens is an award-winning author and historian most known for her writings on slavery and the history of reproductive medicine. She is also widely known for capturing the history of Harriet Tubman as a disabled woman and how it relates to DEI.  However, her superpower is that she speaks with courage and comfort about deeply unsettling topics. She has spoken at the United Nations, London School of Economics, Sorbonne Université (Paris), Morehouse University, Princeton University, Harvard University, The March of Dimes, the University of Limerick, Columbia University, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, and hundreds of other organizations. 

Hailing from South Carolina’s Gullah/Geechee Low Country, she comes from a long line of storytellers and preachers. Her ancestors gifted her with skills that move audiences from hearing the unimaginable to opening hearts through the power of her authentic voice and compelling tales. Along the way, Dr. Cooper Owens has lived all over the United States and South Africa, written an award-winning book (Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology), and earned a Ph.D. When she’s not chronicling the country’s past or advocating for reproductive justice for birthing people, Deirdre enjoys being a global citizen and proud middle-aged fashionista.

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