Letter [to the Editor] from Charles R. Drew to the Journal of the American Medical Association
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1947-01-13 (January 13, 1947)
Drew, Charles R.
Journal of the American Medical Association
Original Repository: Howard University. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. Charles R. Drew Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
"My Chief Interest Was and Is Surgery"--Howard University, 1941-1950
Letter from the Journal of the American Medical Association to Charles R. Drew (January 22, 1947)
Letter from Charles R. Drew to the Journal of the American Medical Association (January 30, 1947)
Letter from the Journal of the American Medical Association to Charles R. Drew (February 3, 1947)
January 13, 1947
In the January 11, 1947 Journal on page 101 under the general title, "History of the American Medical Association, "
there is a chapter, "Admission of Negro Delegates, " which is worthy of comment.
The material of this chapter is taken from the minutes of the Twenty-First Annual Session of the American Medical Association
held in Washington, D.C. in 1870.
The essence of the chapter it that by a vote of 115 to 90 men from the Department of Medicine of Howard University and Freedmen's
Hospital were barred from membership.
Today, seventy-seven years later, this ruling still stands. I shall not argue the case for admission as it stood in 1870,
but I do feel that this age-long policy of discrimination under what guise or pretext is one of the dark pages in the history
of an organization which otherwise has many bright ones.
In 1870 Howard University was but three years old. Its professors, to a large degree, were large-souled physicians of the
northern army who, while administering to the sick who came under their care through the Freedmen's Bureau, gave their
time, often at great personal sacrifice and with rare devotion, in helping men who were but recently slaves to learn to assist
the sick and afflicted of their race. Rejected by the District Medical Society, they helped form the National Medical Society
so that there would be some medium for expression of their common problems and aims. Your pages now recite the story of their
rejection by the American Medical Association.
The men in Washington, the nation's capital, are still rejected although there can be no doubt of their qualifications
by any standards, and so likewise are all of the Negro physicians who happen to live in the South.
At Howard University for many years no physician has been considered for a position of professorial or associate professor
rank in the preclinical area who has not earned a Ph. D. in his special field. In Freedmen's Hospital, the teaching hospital
for the clinical years, a man must have successfully passed his specialty board to be considered for the position of assistant
professor. The chief of every department and subdivision in the departments is a certified specialist in name and practice.
Match these standards with those of the great hospitals of the land and they will be found good, but it will not grant them
the privilege of discussing common problems with fellow physicians in the learned councils of the American Medical Association
and celebrating its one hundredth birthday. One hundred years of racial bigotry and fatuous pretense; one hundred years of
gross disinterest in a large section of the American people whose medical voice it purports to be -- as regards the problem
of Negroes which it raised in 1870; one hundred years of no progress to report. A sorry record.
The American Specialty Boards accept a man on the basis of merit; the American College of Surgeons has recently erased the
infamous policy of discrimination and has made a man's ethical and surgical standards the sole measuring rod; The International
Colleges open their doors to men of like training and interests regardless of race or nationality; but not the great American
Medical Association. If a small minority of county or state chapters persist in wagging the whole body, and the body as a
whole makes no move to direct its own destiny, then it must be considered a body without true strength and purpose or one
which likes the way it is going. The American Medical Association should not start its second century with unfinished business
of this kind making mockery of its continuous protestations of leadership in medicine under the great and free American way