Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South


Thomas J. Ward, Jr.
978-1-55728-936-0 (paper)
February 2010


Add to Cart

In this comprehensive account, Thomas J. Ward examines the development of the African American medical profession in the South. Under segregation, the white medical profession provided inadequate service at best to African American patients. Paradoxically, African Americans could gain financial success and upward mobility by becoming doctors themselves. Ward tracks the rise of African American medical schools, professional organizations, and hospitals. He also explores the difficulties that African American physicians faced as an elite group within a subjugated caste, and the many ways in which their education, prestige, and relative wealth put them at odds with the southern caste system. Within the black community, in turn, this prestige often pushed doctors into the public sphere as business leaders, civic spokesmen, and political activists.

Drawing on a variety of sources from oral histories to the records of professional organizations, this book illuminates the contradictions of race and class in the South and provides valuable new insight into class divisions within African American communities in the era of segregation.

Thomas J. Ward Jr. is an assistant professor of history at Rockhurst University. He was the writer and co-producer of Mississippi Voices: A Trip through the Twentieth Century, a public radio program, and was an assistant editor for the Mississippi Oral History Project.

“An important work that substantially advances our understanding of the intricacies of life in the South and shamefulness of segregation in the Jim Crow era.”
Journal of Southern History

“Tom Ward takes us behind the Jim Crow wall in this comprehensive and moving study of African-American physicians. . . . Vicitmized by the white medical establishment as well as the larger southern society, the black doctor was at the same time a person of influence and relative wealth inside his own community. In exploring these apparent contradictions, Ward tells us much about race and class in twentieth-century America.”
—John Dittmer, author of Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi