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M. Cookie E. Newsom

dentist, was born a slave in the Panthersville District of Dekalb County, Georgia. His mother (name unknown) was a slave, and his father, J. D. Badger was a white dentist and also his master Roderick had several brothers including Robert and Ralph all of whom had the same white father but different mothers In many ways his life story can be seen as an example of the complex relationships between the races in the antebellum and postbellum South where the black and white societies were supposed to be separate but where mixed race children were common growing ever more numerous in the decade leading up to the Civil War As the son of his owner Badger enjoyed the privileges associated with that status including his eventual freedom and prosperity However his status as a mulatto and as a professional man did not protect him from many of the ...

Article

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, businessman, and writer, was born in Madison County, Kentucky, the youngest of fifteen children of Eliza and Edwin, who were slaves. Burton and his mother remained on the plantation after Emancipation as paid laborers, and he continued working at the “old homestead” after her death in 1869 until he was sixteen, at which time he left following an altercation with the owner.

In 1880 Burton was “converted to God” and subsequently experienced an insatiable desire for learning. Despite discouraging comments from those who thought that twenty was too old to start school, Burton was not dissuaded and determined that nothing was going to prevent him from getting an education except sickness or death. Burton worked for one more year as a farmhand in Richmond, Kentucky. One January morning in 1881 he put a few items in a carpetbag and nine dollars and seventy five cents in his ...

Article

Robert Fay

Freedmen's Hospital was founded in 1862 to serve former slaves and Union soldiers in the Civil War (1861–1865). At that time—and, indeed, until the Civil Rights Movement—many hospitals and medical colleges were segregated, leaving black patients with few health care options and aspiring black physicians and nurses with limited choice about where to study and practice medicine. The Freedmen's Hospital, however, not only provided service to poor whites and blacks in Washington, D.C., but through its close association with Howard University's Medical College (the two joined in 1868 to form a teaching hospital), it came to offer medical training to African Americans.

Part of the hospital's mission was to provide medical care to the indigent despite inadequate federal funding—the hospital was prohibited from admitting paying patients until 1912 During its history administrators worked amid a deteriorating physical plant and outdated equipment and the hospital ...

Article

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, was born a slave in North Carolina. Little else is known about her early life, including the names of her parents. In 1884 she enrolled in the normal course at Fisk University, and to pay for tuition she alternated each year of study with a year of picking cotton. She graduated in 1891.

Grier taught at Paine Normal School and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia, during the 1890–1891 school year, but her long-range goal was to become a physician. In 1890, just one year before her graduation from Fisk, she wrote to Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, inquiring about aid that was available to “an emancipated slave” who wanted to enter “so lofty a profession.” No doubt Grier had heard about the school from her mentor and friend Emily Howland a Quaker teacher and suffragette from upstate New York who had gone south to participate ...

Article

Verity J. Harding

gunsmith and engraver, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the eldest son of Allen Jones, a slave and a blacksmith, and Temperance Jones, a slave. He was one of eight children, a daughter and seven sons, born into a long line of slavery. His paternal grandfather, Charles Jones, was born in Africa around 1770 and brought to America to be sold into slavery some years later. Although born a slave, Gunsmith Jones was freed in 1829 when his father purchased liberty for his entire family Allen Jones was a skilled blacksmith who labored intensely for himself and his family while simultaneously performing his slave duties to earn the vast sum of money necessary to buy his family s freedom After saving the extraordinary amount of $2 000 he was cheated out of the money by his master and left with nothing With admirable determination he ...

Article

Thomas Long

a nurse, was born into slavery and given the name Jensey (also spelled “Gensey” in the public record) Snow. She later took the name Jane Minor after being manumitted by her Petersburg, Virginia, slaveowner Benjamin Harrison May and becoming married to Lewis Minor. She demonstrated extraordinary nursing skill, courage, and generosity, first in attending to the sick during a fever epidemic (which prompted May's decision to free her), then in using the money she earned subsequently to purchase and free over a dozen other slaves, and in creating a hospital in Petersburg. She also became the mother-in-law of Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a former resident of Petersburg, the African American who became the first president of Liberia.

As the historian Todd L. Savitt notes health care in the antebellum South consisted of a varied landscape of sometimes competing sometimes complementary models and methods of care Trained allopathic ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

physician, businessman, and political activist, was born near Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina, the son of free black parents who were Quakers. His father, Jonas Elias Pope, freed from slavery in 1851, was a prosperous carpenter and landowner; his mother's name was Permelia. A younger half-brother, Jonas Elias Pope II, born to his father's second wife in 1898, was his only known sibling.

A gifted student, Pope was educated first in the common schools of Northampton County, before enrolling in 1874 at the Baptist-affiliated Shaw University in Raleigh, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1879. In 1880 he worked as a schoolteacher in Halifax County, near his birthplace, and boarded at the Brinkleyville home of Hilliard J. Hewlin, a farmer and aspiring Republican legislator. In 1882 Pope entered the first class at Shaw University s new Leonard Medical ...

Article

Patricia J. Thompson

printer and physician in Liberia, Africa, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Samuel Snowden and Lydia W. Snowden.

Isaac H. Snowden grew up in Boston as a free black man in a home where his father was a well-known and well-respected antislavery activist. It is likely that he attended the Abiel Smith School built in 1834–1835 to house the school for African American students. Snowden later became involved in the Young Men's Literary Society, composed of the most promising young African American men in the city, for the purpose of improving and strengthening their intellectual abilities. He served as president in 1847.

Snowden initially made his living as a book newspaper and fancy job printer Following in his father s footsteps he was involved in the antislavery and equal rights movements and was often elected as one of the secretaries of the various meetings ...

Article

Kevin Barrett

clergyman, physician, and abolitionist, was born in slavery in Winchester, Virginia. The names of his parents are unknown. Although the scant records of his early life differ on the details, most sources indicate that while still a “youth” he ran away from his master and found refuge with a kindly family in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. This household provided the moral and religious influences that shaped Thompson's commitment to physical and spiritual healing. In the evenings and winter months he attended common school, where he proved studious and ambitious. For a time he worked with a physician at Middletown Point (later Matawan), New Jersey.

Although he retained a lifelong interest in medicine, Thompson was resolved to become a minister. He studied theology privately with the Reverend Dr. Mills of Auburn Theological Seminary in Auburn, New York, and was licensed to preach in 1839 For several years he probably ...

Article

Deborah H. Barnes

Originally called Araminta, Harriet Ross Tubman was born on the Brodas plantation, Dorchester County, Maryland. She was disabled by narcoleptic seizures throughout her life after sustaining a severe injury to her head during her youth. Despite this frailty, Tubman's considerable strength and endurance were legendary. As a field slave, she mastered the secrets of woodcraft and navigation–skills that ensured her success as a conductor for the Underground Railroad. After her escape in 1849, Tubman returned to the South over fifteen times to rescue more than two hundred slaves. She successfully freed all of her family and never lost a single passenger during any of her escapes. More than forty thousand dollars was offered for her capture.

Tubman was a pivotal character in the war against slavery, first with the Underground Railroad, later with the Union army. She joined forces with the leading abolitionists of the day: William Still ...