The Newest Negroes: Black Doctors and the Desegregation of Harlem Hospital, 1919-1935
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CitationBiggs, Adam. 2020. The Newest Negroes: Black Doctors and the Desegregation of Harlem Hospital, 1919-1935. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis study examines the desegregation of Harlem Hospital between 1919 and 1935. Beginning with the appointment of Louis T. Wright, it chronicles the efforts of Harlem’s civic leaders to challenge New York City’s segregated hospital system and explores how the construct of the New Negro factored into their campaign. Although Wright’s initial appointment was not tied to civic activism, it inspired local medical societies, newspaper editors, labor organizations, political figures, and civic groups to call attention to acts of discrimination in the hospital, stressing the need for greater black inclusion. Their protests and negotiations brought substantive gains, leading to the opening of the nursing school and a handful of appointments for black doctors and interns. In 1930, a major administrative overhaul elevated Wright to the administrative board and brought numerous black practitioners onto the hospital staff.
But, while the hospital’s ranks appeared open, intense debates began about its role in addressing the problem of race. Over the next five years, Harlem’s black medical community fractured over whether to transform the hospital into a cutting-edge integrated research facility or a separate institution dedicated to the training of black personnel. Bitter rivalries emerged between graduates of black and predominantly white medical schools, between local medical societies, and between the leadership of the National Medical Association and NAACP. While framed as ideological differences, these factions exposed underlying tensions harbored within the black medical community over the meaning of racial progress and the role medicine should play in advocating for racial equality. Rival factions asserted their legitimacy by presenting themselves as leading embodiments of the New Negro. More than a trope for artists of the Harlem Renaissance, the New Negro functioned within the black medical community as a standard for medical professionalism and model for black health. This study explores its role in the desegregation process and examines the various ways black doctors used it as a tool to address the problem of race through the practice of medicine.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368354
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