New recognition for first black U.S. doctor with medical degree

Posted in Articles, Biography, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-10-12 02:31Z by Steven

New recognition for first black U.S. doctor with medical degree

American Medical News

Kevin B. O’Reilly

Dr. James McCune Smith’s descendants unveiled a new headstone in a ceremony to commemorate his achievements as a physician, essayist and abolitionist.

The New York City burial site of the nation’s first black medical degree-holder received a new headstone—one provided by his white descendants in a recent public ceremony.

Dr. James McCune Smith received his medical degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1837, forced to go overseas for his education due to U.S. colleges’ racist admissions policies. Historians say the training provided at European medical schools at that time was, ironically, superior to that offered in the U.S.

Greta Blau, Dr. Smith’s great-great-great-granddaughter, learned that she was descended from the doctor after finding his name inscribed in a family Bible. She recognized the name from a history paper she had written years earlier in college.

After confirming the family connection through genealogical research, Blau learned that Dr. Smith’s five surviving children passed, lived and identified as white in society after he died in 1865.

Dr. Smith treated both black and white patients in New York City. He was the first black doctor to write a medical case report—presented to the New York Medical and Surgical Society in 1840.

He also was the first black physician to have a medical scientific paper published, in the New York Journal of Medicine in 1844, and was a prominent essayist who attacked slavery and racial theories positing blacks’ inferiority. He was a friend of Frederick Douglass and wrote the introduction to his 1855 autobiography…

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Bringing Black History Home

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive on 2013-10-09 15:28Z by Steven

Bringing Black History Home

CUNY Newswire
The City University of New York

Antoinette Martignoni, left, and her granddaughter Greta Blau hold a family Bible that contains the name of their ancestor, Dr. James McCune Smith, the nation’s first African American physician at Martignoni’s home in Fairfield, Conn., Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The name James McCune Smith meant little to Greta Blau in 1996, when she briefly mentioned him in a research paper she wrote for a History of Blacks in New York City course designed and taught by Joanne Edey-Rhodes.

Blau’s paper for the Hunter College class focused on the Colored Orphan Asylum, founded on Fifth Avenue to assist homeless and destitute African-American children. She noted that Smith, the asylum’s doctor, was the nation’s first professionally trained African-American physician — as well as an eminent 19th century abolitionist and author whose friends included antislavery movement leader Frederick Douglass.

Little did Blau know that the assignment would years later lead her on an engrossing journey into her own family’s roots.

It began one day in 2003, at her grandmother’s house in Connecticut, when she was looking through the family Bible that an Irish relative had. “The name was in there as the father of my great-grandmother’s second husband,” she said. “I knew I had heard that name before. I went home and Googled the name, and he came up. I said, ‘That can’t be the right person, because I’m white.’”…

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