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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admitting paying patients until 1912 During its history administrators worked amid a deteriorating physical plant and outdated equipment and the hospital ...



Diane Epstein

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and most inhuman,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago on 25 March 1966. For black women, this form of injustice has ranged from the horrors of the Middle Passage to disproportionately high rates of heart disease and breast cancer death.


Michael Phillips

With medical care in the antebellum South prohibitively expensive, and with slaveowners suspecting that every illness reported by a slave represented a ruse for avoiding work, the southern master class largely ignored their slaves’ health problems. As a result, African American slaves in North America usually turned to healers, herbalists, and magicians within their communities to cure sickness.

These slave doctors derived their practices almost exclusively from West and Central African traditions Such healers resorted to trances or divination to determine the cause of patients diseases While Western medicine through the mid nineteenth century consisted of dangerous if not fatal cures such as induced vomiting and bleeding by contrast African American healers relied extensively on roots leaves bark and the reproductive structures of plants for soothing natural medicines Some slave healers gained a reputation even among the white community such as a South Carolina slave named Cesar who was manumitted ...