First African-American to hold a medical degree: brief history of James McCune Smith, abolitionist, educator, and physician.

08:00 EDT 1st June 2019 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "First African-American to hold a medical degree: brief history of James McCune Smith, abolitionist, educator, and physician."

Dr. James McCune Smith, the first African-American to obtain a medical degree, has a remarkable legacy of historical proportions, yet his immense impact on society remains relatively unknown. He may be most celebrated for his effectiveness in abolitionist politics, however, his pioneering influence in medicine is equally remarkable. As examples, McCune Smith pioneered the use of medically based statistics to challenge the notion of African-American racial inferiority. He scientifically challenged the racial theories promoted in Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (Jefferson T., 1832), and he was a harsh critic of phrenology (study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities). Furthermore, notwithstanding being denied entry to America's universities and medical societies because of his race, McCune Smith became a giving physician to orphans, an accomplished statistician, medical author, and social activist who worked to end slavery. His pioneering work debunked doubts about the ability of African-Americans to transition into free society. Specifically, he used his training in medicine and statistics to refute the arguments of slave owners and prominent thought leaders that African-Americans were inferior and that slaves were better off than free African-Americans or white urban laborers. Frederick Douglass, narrator of the Anti-Slavery Movement, cited Dr. James McCune Smith as the single most important influence on his life. Dr. McCune Smith, along with Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, John Brown and other intellectual pioneers of the time, were instrumental in making the elimination of slavery possible.


Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: Advances in physiology education
ISSN: 1522-1229
Pages: 134-139


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