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.