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Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, educator, and community worker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest daughter of the abolitionist movement leaders William Still and Letitia George Still. In 1850William Still became the head of the Philadelphia Underground Railroad and Vigilance Committee. He would later chronicle his experiences in the best-selling 1872 account, The Underground Railroad.

After completing primary and secondary education at Mrs. Henry Gordon's Private School, the Friends Raspberry Alley School, and the Institute for Colored Youth, Anderson entered Oberlin College. Although she was the youngest member of the graduating class of 1868, Anderson presided over the annual Ladies' Literary Society, a singular honor that had never been awarded to a student of African ancestry.

After graduating from Oberlin, Anderson returned home to teach drawing and elocution, and on 28 December 1869 she married Edward A. Wiley a former slave and fellow ...

Article

Robert C. Hayden

physician, was born in New York City, the son of George DeGrasse, a prosperous landowner, and Maria Van Surly. After obtaining his early education in both public and private schools in New York City, he entered Oneida Institute in Whitesboro (near Utica), New York in 1840. Oneida was one of the first colleges to admit African Americans, nurturing a strong antislavery stance. In addition to welcoming black students to its campus, the institute invited abolitionists as lecturers and provided both a manual arts and an academic program.

In 1843 DeGrasse attended Aubuk College in Paris, France. Returning to New York City in 1845, he started medical training through an apprenticeship with Dr. Samuel R. Childs. After two years of clinical work and study under Childs, DeGrasse was admitted into the medical studies program at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1847 Finishing his ...

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Kenyatta D. Berry

political activist and doctor, was born in Camden, South Carolina, one of the three sons and six children of James and Susan Levy. Dr. Levy's great-grandmother was a native African. James Levy attended public school in Camden and for a short time the University of South Carolina. When the school closed its doors to black students, he had to find another university. James began his career as a teacher in Mayesville in the early 1880s. During Reconstruction he was a page in the House of Representatives in South Carolina and a student at a preparatory school for boys for entrance to State University. In 1886, he taught school in Arkansas and later entered Fisk University in November 1886. Levy graduated from Fisk University in 1891 and entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Chicago now University of Illinois College of Medicine that same year ...

Article

Keay Davidson

physician, was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, the son of John C. Peck and Sally or Sarah (maiden name unknown), free blacks who lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. John Peck, who worked as a preacher, wig maker, and barber, campaigned against slavery and worked with the Underground Railroad. Peck's mother was a member of the Carlisle Methodist Church. He had at least one sibling, Mary, born in 1837. That same year the family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From 1841 to 1844 Peck attended the Collegiate Institute at Oberlin, Ohio.

During the 1840s medicine was a virtually all-white profession. The first African American to receive a formal medical degree, James McCune Smith, had obtained his MD in 1837 from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Peck was the first African American to receive a medical degree at a recognized American medical school.

In 1843 Rush Medical College in ...

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John Gilmore

Clergyman of the Church of England and critic of Caribbean slavery born in Scotland. Originally trained as a surgeon, he spent six years in the Royal Navy in that capacity. On one occasion during this period he visited a slave ship where there was an epidemic on board in order to provide treatment to the victims. Ramsay eventually decided to leave the Navy because of an accident that had left him lame. In 1762 he was ordained by the Bishop of London, and returned to the Caribbean island of St Kitts (St Christopher), which he had previously visited while in the Navy. He spent most of the next nineteen years in St Kitts, as rector of two parishes there, and married the daughter of a local planter.

Ramsay s attempts to preach Christianity to the slaves and his involvement in local political issues made him unpopular with his white parishioners ...

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Karen Jean Hunt

abolitionist, physician, and feminist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter of John Remond and Nancy Lenox. Her father, a native of Curaçao, immigrated to the United States at age ten and became a successful merchant. Her mother was the daughter of African American Revolutionary War veteran Cornelius Lenox. Remond grew up in an antislavery household. Her father became a life member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1835, and her mother was founding member of the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, which began as a black female organization in 1832. Sarah's brother, Charles Lenox Remond, was a well-known antislavery lecturer in the United States and Great Britain.

Sarah Parker Remond attended local public schools in Salem until black students were forced out by committee vote in 1835 Determined to educate their children in a less racist environment the Remond family moved ...

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Clare J. Washington

health care professional and union official, was one of five children. Her family lived in a very large tenement building, in what was an often seedy, rough neighborhood on the south Side of Chicago. She attended Chicago public schools, and then she managed to get a scholarship to the University of Illinois. After only six months, she had to return home and find a job. Her brother had been drafted into the U.S. Army, and there was no longer a source of income for the family.

During World War II, nurse's aide positions shifted from being the domain of upper-class women volunteers to poor (often black) women. As shortages and turnover became more prevalent in the hospitals, the conditions of work for these women worsened. In 1946 Roberts became the first African American nurse s aide hired at the University of Chicago Lying In Hospital She felt isolated ...

Article

Eric Gardner

activist, lawyer, doctor, and dentist, was born to free parents in Salem County, New Jersey. The majority of secondary sources list his middle name as “Swett” or “Sweat,” although his biographer J. Harlan Buzby asserts that it was “Stewart.” His father, also named John Rock, lived for more than three decades in Elsinboro, Salem County, New Jersey, and married Maria Willet on 8 June 1820. The elder John Rock was a laborer, and though the family was poor, John and Maria Rock did their best to see that young Rock was educated.

By 1844 Rock was teaching at an all-black school in Salem, a position he held until 1848. While teaching he read extensively and began studying medicine with two white doctors in the area, Quinton Gibbon and Jacob Sharpe He attempted to gain admission to medical colleges in the area but ...

Article

Connie Meale

physician, newspaper proprietor, and Republican Party activist, was born in St. James Parish, Louisiana, the son of Louis Roudanez, a wealthy French merchant, and Aimée Potens, a free woman of color. Roudanez was raised in New Orleans as a member of the city's free black elite, but in 1844 he left to pursue a professional education in France. In 1853 the faculty of medicine at the University of Paris awarded him a degree in medicine. He graduated with a second medical degree from Dartmouth College in 1857, and soon after he returned to New Orleans to open his own office. In the same year he married Louisa Celie Seulay; their union produced eight children.

Roudanez continued to build his medical practice during the Civil War and Reconstruction but like other free men of color in New Orleans upon federal occupation of south Louisiana ...

Article

Dalyce Newby

physician and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Absalom Shadd, a prosperous restaurateur, and Eliza Brockett. About 1855 Absalom Shadd sold his business and, following his brother Abraham Doras Shadd's example, relocated his family to Chatham, Ontario, where he took up farming. Following Absalom's untimely death, the family returned to the United States.

In August 1867 Shadd began a thirty-eight-year affiliation as student, educator, and administrator with Howard University and its associated institutions. He first enrolled in the preparatory course at the model school administered by the university. Graduating from the model school, he became one of Howard's first university students. He earned his BS in 1875, followed by his MS in 1878 and his MD in 1881. He was selected valedictorian of both his undergraduate and his medical convocations.

While pursuing his own education, Shadd served from 1874 through 1878 ...

Article

John Stauffer

abolitionist and physician, was born in New York City, the son of slaves. All that is known of his parents is that his mother was, in his words, “a self-emancipated bond-woman.” His own liberty came on 4 July 1827, when the Emancipation Act of the state of New York officially freed its remaining slaves. Smith was fourteen at the time, a student at the Charles C. Andrews African Free School No. 2, and he described that day as a “real full-souled, full-voiced shouting for joy” that brought him from “the gloom of midnight” into “the joyful light of day.” He graduated with honors from the African Free School but was denied admission to Columbia College and Geneva, New York, medical schools because of his race. With assistance from black minister Peter Williams Jr., he entered the University of Glasgow, Scotland, in 1832 and earned his BA ...

Article

Laura M. Calkins

political activist, politician, and the first African American to matriculate at the University of Michigan, was born in Saint James Parish, near Charleston, South Carolina, to an elite family of free blacks. Reportedly orphaned as a youngster, Samuel was sent to Washington, D.C., as the ward of the white Presbyterian minister William McLane. The District of Columbia was home to a handful of private schools for blacks during the 1840s, though which Watson may have attended or for how long is unknown His academic accomplishments and private support were such however that at the age of seventeen he enrolled at the prestigious Phillips Academy at Andover Massachusetts Watson studied in the English department which emphasized teacher training rather than in the academy s classics program which prepared young men for study at elite colleges in New England Reportedly disillusioned over southern slavery and unhappy at ...