Black People in Health Care

Black Healthcare Workers1861: Anderson Ruffin Abbott (7 April 1837 – 29 December 1913) was the first Black Canadian to become a physician after being granted a medical licence from the medical board of Upper Canada in 1861.

1862: Washington, D.C.: Freedmen’s Hospital is established & is the only Federally-funded health care facility for Negroes in the nation. 1864: Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Negro female to earn a medical degree, graduates from New England Female Medical College, Boston.


Robert Tanner Freeman is one of the first six graduates in dental medicine from Harvard University, thus becoming the first African American to receive an education in dentistry & a dental degree from an American medical school. (Freeman was born in 1847 to slave parents in North Carolina.)
1868: Washington, D.C.: Howard University, established for the purpose of educating Negro doctors, opens to both Negro & White students, including women.
Dr Rukhmabai (b. 1864, Bombay, India. d. 1955, Bombay) entered the London School of Medicine for Women & qualified as a doctor in 1894. Her training was completed at the Royal Free Hospital in London
Dr John Alcindor. Born: 1873, Trinidad. Died: 1924. John Alcindor attended medical school in Edinburgh, graduating with first-class honours in 1899. He worked in many hospitals & in 1907 established his own practice in Paddington, one of the first black general practices in the UK.
Dr Harold Moody, Born: 1882, Jamaica. Died: 1947. Dr Harold Moody moved to London in 1904. He studied medicine at King’s College but racial prejudice prevented him from obtaining a hospital post. Eventually he set up his own practice in Peckham.
Fannie Elliott: In 1919 Fannie Elliott became the first African American nurse to be recognized by the American Red Cross.
Dr David Thomas Pitt, doctor & politician. Born: 1913, Grenada. Died: 1994. In 1932 David Pitt won Grenada’s only overseas scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh medical school. He graduated with honours & returned to the West Indies, where he practised medicine.
Princess Tsahai (1918-1942) was the daughter of Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. She had joined him in exile in London & trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street, & subsequently at Guy’s Hospital. She returned home intending to set up a nursing school in Addis Ababa but she died of meningitis in 1942 aged 24.
The only black male nurses that I have notes on are: 1. Denzil Nurse. He was born in Barbados. He attended Mount Tabor Primary School & then went onto secondary school. He left before taking his exams, intending to apply to join the British Air Force. Deemed too young he opted for nursing & in 1963, aged 19, travelled to Britain. He studied nursing at the Stanley Royd Hospital in Yorkshire. He specialised in psychiatric nursing, working as a staff nurse for 23 years.
In 1986 he moved into community development, working with the Afro-Caribbean community in Huddersfield & developing a range of health & social care projects. A few years ago he visited Gambia & ‘adopted’ an African village, where he has set up community projects.
2. Nelson Auguste Nelson Auguste was born in St Lucia. He left school aged 16 & worked in a sugar cane factory. In 1960, aged 20, he left St Lucia for England. He worked in factories, on building sites & as a gravedigger. In 1972 he began work as a general porter in the National Heart Hospital, London. He subsequently became a theatre porter & ultimately supervisor. He was nominated shop steward of his union & was active defending workers’ rights. He retired in 1994 & is currently treasurer for the St Lucia Association.

3. Derek Harty was born in Jamaica. He attended primary & secondary schools. After leaving school he worked in Kingston Public Hospital as a laboratory technician. In 1965, aged 23, he left Jamaica for England, travelling by plane. He obtained a job as a junior technician in the NHS & went on to pursue further academic qualifications. He became a registered laboratory scientist & in 1973 became a fellow of biomedical sciences. He is currently technical manager for the biochemistry department at Whipps Cross Hospital, London.

4. Caswell Jeffrey was born in Jamaica. He left school aged 16 & was interested in woodwork. He trained & qualified as a carpenter. In 1960 he emigrated to England, travelling by ship. He gained a position as a carpenter at the General Hospital, Birmingham, where he worked for more than 30 years. In 1988 his union, UCATT, appointed him health & safety representative. He retired in 1992.

5. Dr Eddie Adams was born in Guyana. He attended school in Georgetown, obtaining the Cambridge overseas certificate. In 1953, aged 27, he travelled to England on the SS Colombie. He was awarded a grant to study medicine at King’s College, London & qualified as a surgeon. His first job in the NHS was at King’s College Hospital in 1964. He joined Lambeth Hospital as a surgeon & was later attached to St Thomas’s. He worked as a surgeon in major hospitals across London. In 1977 he opened his own practice in Streatham, London. Dr Victor Eastmond was born in Barbados. He achieved A levels at school & in 1964, aged 19, emigrated to Britain, having applied to work with London Transport. He travelled by plane. He worked as a guard with London Transport for a year, then switched career to dentistry, a long-held ambition. He studied radiography at the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead. He completed his training in 1969, before going freelance within the NHS. In 1970, aged 25, he gained a place at the Royal Dental Hospital, London. In 1975 he set up his own dental practice. In 1979 he went back to Barbados, where he now runs a successful dental practice.

6. Dr Franklyn Jacobs was born in St Vincent. He attended primary & secondary school & went to the University of the West Indies to study medicine. He left university in 1968 & worked as a doctor in Trinidad. In 1974 he travelled to Britain to obtain further training in anaesthetics. In 1977 he went into general practice within the NHS, working in a predominantly Greek community in North London. Since 1982 he has run his own general practice. Dr Jacobs is one of the founders of the African Caribbean Medical Society (together with Lord Pitt & Dr Eddie Simon), which has helped to raise awareness & campaign for greater understanding of health issues within the black community

7. Dr Anthony Lewis was born in Jamaica. He won a government scholarship to Jamaica College, which he attended from 1954_1. From there he won a scholarship to study dentistry at the University of Leeds. He arrived in the UK in 1962, aged 19. He came over by plane. While studying at Leeds, where he had been the only Caribbean student, he worked as a dentist within the NHS, working in rural Yorkshire & the coalfields. He graduated in 1968 & got a job as a house officer at the Leeds Dental Hospital, where he worked until 1971. He returned to Jamaica, where he became the first dentist appointed to the Bustamante Hospital for Children. In 1999 he was appointed director of dental surgery in the Ministry of Health in Jamaica. He retired from the ministry in 2003 & now runs his own private practice in Barbados.

8. Dr Stanley Moonsawmy was born in Guyana. He attended primary & secondary school. In 1956, aged 19, he travelled to Scotland on board a French passenger liner, to study medicine at Edinburgh University. He trained at various hospitals in Edinburgh, graduating in 1965. He started work as a locum, progressing to the position of registrar. He worked at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, until 1973, when he went into general practice, taking over a single-handed practice from a Scottish doctor in Loanhead

Submitted by Angela Alison:  Source:



One thought on “Black People in Health Care

  • 4th July 2011 at 5:10 pm

    The British Library holds these mostly loanable (DSC) titles, which may prove useful to you for recent background, and they might provide leads to people you could contact. I realise you’ve probably used them in your PhD (which we provide to readers here).
    I should think the Imperial War Museum would be key:

    Ethnic Minorities Health : A Current Awareness Bulletin
    Bradford : School of Nursing, St. Luke’s Hospital, 1989-1991 and possibly 2000.
    British Library shelfmark : 3814.8356 DSC

    National Black Nurses Association Journal
    NBSA, 1986-
    4829.35 DSC

    Carol Baxter
    Race Equality in Health Care and Education
    Baillière Tindall in association with the RCN, 1997
    YC.2003.a.9924 and 97/13274 DSC

    Carol Baxter
    The Black Nurse : An Endangered Species : A Case for Equal Opportunities in Nursing
    Cambridge: Training in Health and Race, 1988
    YC.1991.a.4345 and 88/24989 DSC

    Louise Garvey
    Nursing Lives of Black Nurses in Nottingham
    Nottinghamshire Living History Archive, 2002
    YS.2002.b.2758 [non-loanable]

    Marina Lee-Cunin
    Daughters of Seacole : A Study of Black Nurses in West Yorkshire
    West Yorkshire Low Pay Unit, 1989
    93/09615 DSC

    Information submitted by Andy Simons


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