James Durham, born a slave in 1762, buys his freedom and begins his own medical practice in New Orleans, becoming the first African-American doctor in the United States. James McCune Smith wasn't just any doctor. He was the first African-American to obtain a medical degree, educated at the University of Glasgow in the 1830s, when no American university would admit it. For this pioneering achievement alone, Smith deserves greater appreciation.
James McCune Smith was the first African-American to receive a doctorate in medicine from a university. Born in 1813 to a poor fugitive slave from South Carolina who had escaped to New York City, he went on to attend the University of Glasgow during the 1830s. When he returned to the United States, he became a prominent black doctor, a tireless abolitionist, activist and journalist. When most people talk about heroes in black history, many remember names like Frederick Douglas, Mary McCleoud Bethune, Benjamin Banneker and Sojurner Truth.
While all of those names are great, many forget those who paved the way in the field of medicine, even in times of slavery. James McCune Smith is one of those. McCune was one of the most prominent black intellectuals and activists in the United States. Born in New York on April 18, 1813, to a mother who bought her own freedom and a father who may have been a freed slave or a white merchant, Smith attended the African Free School in New York City.
In 1824, the retired hero of the War of Independence, General Lafayette, returned to the United States for a tour of the nation. While in New York, he visited the African Free School and, out of all the students, chose James to write and deliver the welcome speech. Smith was only 11 years old. Smith died in 1865 at the age of 52, five months after the end of the Civil War and less than three weeks before the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, well aware that African Americans still faced a long and tough struggle for equality.
The New York recruitment riots of July 1863, in which mobs attacked not only the city's wealthy New Yorkers but also black New Yorkers, had made that clear to him. He established his Lower Manhattan practice in general surgery and medicine, treating both black and white patients. He was a prominent abolitionist and pioneer in using statistical analysis to refute government claims that blacks were less intelligent than whites. In 1895, he co-founded the National Medical Association, a professional organization for black doctors, since the American Medical Association did not allow African-American membership.
Smith was extensively involved in anti-slavery and suffrage movements, contributing to and editing abolitionist newspapers and serving as an officer for many organizations to improve social conditions in the black community. She was the first black person to serve a residency for that specialty at New York University and the first black woman to work as a surgeon at UCLA Medical Center. A prolific writer, Smith was not only the first African American to publish peer-reviewed articles in medical journals; he also wrote essays and lectured refuting pseudoscientific claims of black inferiority and predicted the transformative impact that African Americans were destined to make on world culture. The school graduated a list of children who would occupy the highest positions in black intellectual and public life.
During his 25-year practice, he was also the first black person to publish articles in American medical journals, but he was never admitted to the American Medical Association or local ones. But according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 5% of doctors in the country are black. Although there weren't many African Americans in Glasgow, black writers had been operating in Britain since the 1770s. In 1837, he established a doctor's office at 55 West Broadway, where he also opened the first black-owned pharmacy in the United States.
After the riots, Smith moved his family and business from Manhattan to Brooklyn, as did other prominent blacks. Upon his return to New York City in 1837, Smith became the first black doctor to publish articles in American medical journals. McCune Smith's publications are an important early chapter in the history of how black activists have worked tirelessly over the past two centuries to unravel scientific misinterpretations of discriminatory claims about poverty, gender and race. The reasons for this are diverse; a qualitative study of a small group of black medical students cited financial constraints, lack of role models, insufficient exposure to medicine as a profession, little encouragement at home and in schools, and social pressure from peers to engage in other occupations and factors who contribute.
The main problem was that slavery advocates had noticed that mortality rates for African Americans in northern nursing homes were higher than those of blacks in southern states. . .