Part 2 focuses on Mae Settler. Her story has many fascinating aspects but one point has always stuck in my mind. She tells us how she is from a large family with many brothers and sisters. She is in her early 70’s and most of her brothers and sisters have already died. This loss of family, so early it seems to me, has just stuck in my mind as a sad state of affairs.

The 20 minute Part 2 is embeded below. It will play on your computer or if you are using an iPhone get the WordPress app for a very convenient mobile experience including viewing the film on your phone.

Mrs. Mae Settler

That African Americans have shorter life expectancies than their white or Asian counterparts is common knowledge and while these gaps are smaller now they are still meaningful (Mestel, 2012).An extensive study of mortality and life expectancy between 1933-1999 came to these conclusions (Levine, 2001), “There has been no sustained decrease in black-white inequalities in age-adjusted mortality or life expectancy at birth at the national level since 1945. Without fundamental changes, most probably related to the ways medical and public health practitioners are trained, evaluated, and compensated for prevention-related activities, as well as further research on translating the findings of prevention studies into clinical practice, it is likely that simply reducing disparities in access to care and/or medical treatment will be insufficient. Millions of premature deaths will continue to occur among African Americans.”

The almost stereotyped threats to long life among African Americans, violence and HIV (plus cancer), seem to have reduced life expectancy significantly in the 1980’s and 1990’s (Kochanek, 1994). But the effect of these influences appears to have lessened in the 21st century.

A more recent study (Harper, 2007) looking at the years 1983-2003 reinforces this conclusion, “After widening during the late 1980s, the black-white life expectancy gap has declined because of relative mortality improvements in homicide, HIV, unintentional injuries, and, among females, heart disease. Further narrowing of the gap will require concerted efforts in public health and health care to address the major causes of the remaining gap from cardiovascular diseases, homicide, HIV, and infant mortality.”

Still there are significant differences in disease rates and access to health care. Mestel (2012) says that Blacks have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension and that these chronic issues lead to a number of life threatening complications. She also states that Blacks are less likely to have health insurance or to participate in effective prevention activities.



  1. Harper, S et al. Trends in the black-white life expectancy gap in the United States, 1983-2003. JAMA, 2007 Mar 21, 297(11), 1224-32 (
  2. Kochanek, KD, Maurer, JD & Rosenberg, HM. Why did black life expectancy decline from 1984 through 1989 in the United States? Am J Public Health, 1994 Jun, 84(6), 938-44 (
  3. Levine, RS et al. Black-white inequalities in mortality and life expectancy, 1933-1999: implications for healthy people 2010. Public Health Rep., 2001 Sep-Oct, 116(5), 474-83 (
  4. Mestel, R. Life expectancy gap narrows between blacks, whites. Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2012 (

(Join us for a discussion about part 2 of Lives Lived in East Texas on Wednesday, September 5, 8:15 to 8:45 a.m. Note change in time. Link to the meeting room: Also, see Discussion and SL tabs above for details)