The Political Role of the Black Physician During the Nineteenth Century
Leslie Emmett Wilson
Robert L. Harris, Jr
Thesis DT 3.5 1978 W751
iv, 246 leaves; 28 cm.
The development of the black physician during the nineteenth century reveals the challenge undertaken by black professionals. Although professional medical training began in 1765 and the American Medical Association had been formed by 1847, the medical involvement of Afro-Americans had been restricted by racism and segregation. Though a small and basically undeveloped group during the 1840's and 1850's, the physician with education and social distinction was drawn into a dual role of responsibility. His power and influence within the black community gave him a social obligation. In his attempt to overcome the obstacles confronting himself and his people, the black doctor became a spokesman for black equality.
The continuing oppressive conditions that affected blacks and black physicians during the century led to the mergence of the black doctor as a civil rights activist. Such involvement subsequently led to the formation of a general political ideology based on their experiences as black people and as professionals in a white-dominated society. Prior to the Civil War, the physician was an agitator fighting to secure the rights of blacks and the end of slavery. Following this conflict they continued their agitation, and began involvement in elective politics and nationalistic development. At the same time they established themselves in their profession, fighting racism within their field and providing services for the black community. These men were responsible for the foundations of existing institutions, businesses, and ideologies.
This thesis analyses the political role of black physicians from 1835 to 1895, examining their formal origins to their professional unification. The study observes prominent physicians and their actions before and after the Civil War and explains the transitions of their ideologies caused by the war and socio-economic factors. It demonstrates that the physician has maintained his involvement in the black civil rights movement, although he is overshadowed by other groups of black professionals and dominant black leaders. Areas which have led to the physicians transformation from active to internal politics, such as geography, education, status, and professionalism are considered. Other issues covered in the study are the development of the professional nature of the black physician such as the creation of black medical schools, hospitals and societies, and the contributions of black physicians to black elevation.
The format of this thesis is designed to provide a greater understanding of the interrelated factors which influenced black practitioners. Their experiences in this period of war and reconstruction are analyzed within and outside of occurrences in America, the progress of the black race, and the medical profession. Chapter one is a brief introduction to the formation of American medicine, African-American origins, and how the interrelation of race, geography, education, and status created separate factions of medical practice. The second chapter views the formal beginnings of Afro-American medical involvement. Crucial aspects of this chapter are the motives and methods utilized by different organizations to support the education of black physicians. The role of the American Colonization Society was especially important in this area, as it was more influential in black education than the Abolitionists or the Convention Movement prior to the Civil War. Politically active physicians from 1835 to 1865 are the cubject of the third chapter. Prominent figures covered in this section are healers, William Wells Brown and David Ruggles, and professionally trained practitioners, James McCune Smith, Martin Delany, and John S. Rock. Their ideologies, influence and involvement in the struggles for abolition and equality, in addition to those of lesser figures, are the main areas of focus. Physicians, 1865 to 1895, and their transition from outward political roles to internal politics and professionalism are examined in the fourth chapter. This chapter analyzes the reasons for this change and the different types of programs in which the men were engaged. An important part of this era was the development of black medical facilities. It is this professional development which leads to the permanent association of black doctors. The final chapter is an analytical review of the major concepts, a brief glance at professional and political activities by practitioners in the twentieth century, and the development of the National Medical Association as a political organization.