Dunbar Hospital in Detroit, MI, was founded in 1918. Healthcare for Detroit’s African Americans was severely inferior to care available for white patients. At this time more than 30,000 African-Americans lived in Detroit. The city was very segregated. Black physicians could not join the staff of Detroit’s White hospitals and patients were denied care at the city’s White hospitals. Thus, 30 Black doctors, members of the Allied Medical Society (now the Detroit Medical Society), incorporated Dunbar Hospital, the city’s first nonprofit community hospital for the African-American population.
Alexander Augusta (1825 – 1890) was born in Norfolk Virginia. He began his medical studies under the supervision of private tutors. He then applied for admission at the University of Pennsylvania but was denied. Still, a Professor William Gibson, who was very impressed with Augusta began teaching him privately. In 1847, Augusta married Native American woman, Mary O. Burgoin. In 1856 he was admitted to the College Of The University of Toronto. He would eventually receive his Bachelors of Medicine degree from Trinity Medical College.
Augusta went on to establish a thriving private practice in Canada. He was also hired as the head of Toronto City Hospital. Just prior to the start of the Civil War, he returned to the U.S. and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was the first of eight black officers to be commissioned during the Civil War and was the first black surgeon in the army. He was commissioned as a major with the 7th U.S. Colored Troops. At that time, Augusta was the highest ranking black officer. His high ranking angered some of the white medical personnel who reported to him. Those individuals wrote President Lincoln and complained. Lincoln then forced Augusta to take on a leadership role at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. Augusta was the first African American to lead Freedman’s Hospital. Continue reading “Alexander Augusta: 1st Black Surgeon In The U.S. Army”→