James Derham


James Derham was the first Black person to receive a certificate to practice medicine in the U.S. He won his freedom and set up his own practice in New Orleans. He was the first African-American to formally practice medicine in the United States though he never received an M.D. degree. Derham was born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was owned by several doctors and by working as a nurse/medical assistant, he saved enough money to purchase his freedom by 1783. In the same year he ended up in New Orleans with a Scottish physician, to perform medical services. He opened his own medical practice, and by age 26 his annual earnings exceeded $3,000. He was a popular and distinguished doctor in New Orleans, at least in part for his knowledge of English, French, and Spanish. In 1789, Durham saved more yellow fever victims in New Orleans than any other physician in colonial Philadelphia.

Supreme Soul

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard was born a slave in Jefferson County, Alabama, and spent the first 15 years of his life as a slave on a small farm. A year after he was emancipated, he married and became a farmer in a small city outside of Birmingham. Beard was a farmer near Birmingham, Alabama for some five years, but recalled making a difficult trip to Montgomery in 1872 with 50 bushels of apples drawn by oxen. He said, “It took me three weeks to make the trip. I quit farming after that.” As a result of his extensive farming experience, he was able to develop and champion his first invention, a plow. In 1881, he patented one of his plows and sold it, in 1884, for $4,000. Three years later, on December 15, 1887, Beard invented another plow and sold it for $5,200. With this money he went into the real estate business and made about $30,000.

Beard’s most important invention would be patented in 1897, the “Jenny” coupler. In the early days of American railroading, coupling of rail road cars was done manually. Car coupling, an extremely dangerous practice, required a railroad worker to brace himself between cars and drop a metal pin into place at the exact moment the cars came together. Few railroad men kept all their fingers; many lost arms and hands. Even more were caught between cars and crushed to death during the hazardous split-second operation. His idea secured two cars by merely bumping them together.

Beard invented the Automatic Railroad Car Coupler, commonly called the “Jenny” coupler, and the patent for his invention was issued on November 23, 1897. Andrew Beard’s invention, which was improved in 1899, is the forerunner of today’s automatic coupler. Unfortunately, Beard’s life, after 1897, is a virtual mystery. He died in 1921 yet no record has been found of where it happened. Beard was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio for his life-saving invention.

beard invention 2

Supreme Soul

Ella P. Stewart

Ella P. Stewart

Ella P. Stewart

Ella Nora Phillips Stewart was born on March 6, 1893 in Stringtown, West Virginia. With a love of nature and an exceptional interest in learning, she attended high school at the age of twelve at the Storer College – the only school in the region that accepted black students. Rather than continue her training and education as a teacher, she chose to marry and begin a family. She had one child, a daughter, who unfortunately died at a young age from whooping-cough. After the death of her child, Stewart began working as a bookkeeper in a local pharmacy. It was at this time she developed an interest in becoming a pharmacist herself. Stewart wished to attend the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy but was met with discrimination when she was told admissions were closed. She would remain persistent in her task and would desegregate the University of Pittsburgh by being the first black student admitted in 1914. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1916 earning her Ph.D and in the same year would go on to pass her state exam to become the first licensed African-American female pharmacist in Pennsylvania and one of the earliest practicing African-American female pharmacists in the country.

Stewart worked in Pittsburgh and then Braddock, Pennsylvania where she was employed at the General Hospital and managed a drugstore. Her hard work enabled her to eventually purchase this drugstore, and was later able to open several of her own pharmacies. She learned that there were no black-owned drugstores in Toledo, Ohio, so she traveled to Toledo, purchased a commercial building and in 1922 and opened the Stewart’s Pharmacy with her second husband. The business did well and was welcomed by the neighborhood. As Ella became more important in the community she became more and more interested in the problems that it faced. She became involved in the Enterprise Charity Club, a black women’s philanthropic club which provided assistance to Toledo families. Through her work with this club, Stewart developed a reputation of leadership that led to her eventual election in 1944 as President of the Ohio Association of Colored Women and from 1948 to 1952, as President of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).

For Ella, her most cherished achievement and honor was the naming of a Toledo elementary school after her; a school she visited often, serving as a role model to its young students. Despite Stewart’s extensive club work and numerous honors, she was continually met with the discrimination she had worked all her life to end. She never accepted the racism she found, instead, she succeeded in her own quiet way to overcome it.

– Supreme Soul

The Alexandria Library Sit-in

The Alexandria Library sit-In 1939

The Alexandria Library sit-In 1939

Well before the famous Woolworth’s counter sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina occurred, the first organized sit-in by African-Americans happened 21 years earlier approximately 300 miles away. On March 17, 1939, attorney Samuel Wilbert Tucker and retired Army Sergeant George Wilson (both African-American), walked through the doors of a segregated Queen Street library in Alexandria, Virginia. Each requested an application for a library card, but library policy was to not issue these cards to persons of colored race. Tucker had passed the newly erected Alexandria library on a daily basis, yet as an African-American, he had to travel to the District of Columbia to obtain access to library facilities. Unsatisfied with the unequal access to educational facilities, Tucker decided to battle the system of Jim Crow through the legal system.

Organized and instructed by Tucker, five young black men entered the Barrett Branch Library on Queen Street one by one and politely requested library cards. When refused, each one took a book off the shelf and sat down in the reading room. As the men sat down to read, police officers were called. William Evans, Otto L. Tucker, Edward Gaddis, Morris Murray, and Clarence Strange would each be arrested for “disorderly conduct.” Tucker had instructed the men to dress well, speak politely and offer no resistance to the police to minimize the chance of the men being found guilty of disorderly conduct or resisting arrest. Tucker defended the men in the ensuing legal actions which resulted in the protestors not being convicted of disorderly conduct.

A lawsuit would be filed in the local court to force the librarian to issue a library card to Sergeant Wilson as a taxpaying citizen of the City of Alexandria. When the case was eventually heard on January 10, 1940, the judge rejected the petition for a library card for “technical reasons”, but affirmed that “there were no legal grounds for refusing the plaintiff or any other bona fide citizen the use of the library.” The Virginia Public Assemblages Act of 1926 stated that both races were to be segregated within the same facility, therefore according to the law African-Americans were unlawfully barred from the Alexandria Library. Within two days of the judge’s decision, two African-Americans applied for library cards. Yet, they were refused by being informed that a new colored branch of the Alexandria library was under construction and that their applications was under consideration. The city would go on to open a segregated library for African-Americans. That same segregated library (the Robinson Library) is now the site of the Alexandria Black History Museum.

– Supreme Soul

the 1939 alexandria library sit-in e-88

Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller

Here at 3GW, it was decided to give readers some information about influential African-Americans for Black History Month. I will try to keep it brief and informative and hope you all enjoy.

Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D.

Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. was the nation’s first African-American psychiatrist and a neurologist who made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease. He also focused his research on the organic causes of disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Fuller’s knowledge of venereal disease later helped diagnose syphilis in black World War II veterans who had been previously misdiagnosed with behavioral disorders. The mental health facility at Boston University is now officially known as the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center.

Supreme Soul

The Tuskegee Experiment

With February being Black History Month (BHM), I usually try to provide others with information which usually is not well-known. I may go back and repost the older topics about many firsts in black history; the first black physicians, the first black nurse, the first black to receive a patent, the first black to receive a gold medal at the Olympics.

Yet, one rarely hears about the negative aspects of black history such as The Tuskegee Experiment—which are just as important for black people of today’s generation to learn and nearly impossible for those of past generations to forget. This post will hopefully help many of my people and others gain insight into what some of our ancestors have been through. I also post this so other African-Americans comprehend that many of the rights and privileges we are now afforded—and often take for granted—were flat out denied to our elders on innumerable occasions and to show that some damages to our race are even self-inflicted. Maybe this can help to inspire changes for each of us as a whole through positive action and improved self-reflection.

The Tuskegee Experiment was an infamous clinical study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama. This was done to analyze the natural progression of untreated syphilis in poor black tuskegeemen who thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government. It was then known as the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. Public Health Service investigators, working with the Tuskegee Institute, enrolled in the study a total of 600 impoverished, black males from Macon County; 399 who had previously contracted syphilis before the study began, and 201 without the disease.

These men—who were for the most part illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama—were never told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. Researchers tuskegee 2told the men they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several ailments, including syphilis, anemia, and fatigue. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. Although originally projected to last 6 months, the study actually went on for 40 years!!!

At the start of the study (1932), there was no proven treatment for syphilis. But even after penicillin became a standard cure for the disease in 1947, the medicine—and any information about it—was withheld from the men. In fact, scientists prevented participants from accessing syphilis treatment programs available to others in the area. When several nationwide campaigns to eradicate venereal disease came to Macon County, the men were prevented from participating. During World War II, 250 of the men registered for the draft and were consequently ordered to get treatment for syphilis, only to have the Public Health Service exempt them from receiving it.

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The Tuskegee scientists wanted to continue to study how the disease spreads and kills. The data for the experiment was to be collected from autopsies of the men, and they were thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis—which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. “As I see it,” one of the doctors involved explained, “we have no further interest in these patients until they die.”

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At the origins of the study and throughout its entirety were countless Caucasian physicians, nurses, public health officials, scientists, etc.However, perhaps the same can be said of several blacks in similar positions and vocations. Robert Russa Moton—the head of Tuskegee Institute at the time—and Dr. Eugene Dibble, an African-American doctor who was head of the John Andrew Hospital at the Tuskegee Institute, both lent their endorsement and institutional resources to the government study. Eunice Rivers, a black nurse who trained at Tuskegee Institute, was a central figure in the experiment for most of its forty years.

Robert Russa Moton

Robert Russa Moton

Dr. Eugene Dibble

Dr. Eugene Dibble

Eunice Rivers

Eunice Rivers

The experiment lasted four decades, until public health workers leaked the story to the media. AssociateTuskegeegroupd Press reporter Jean Heller wrote an article on July 25, 1972 in the Washington Evening Star newspaper with the headline on its front page reading “Syphilis Patients Died Untreated.” This story caused a public outcry that led the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs to appoint an Ad Hoc Advisory Panel to review the study. The panel had nine members from the fields of medicine, law, religion, labor, education, health administration, and public affairs.

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The panel found that the men had agreed freely to be examined and treated. However, there was no evidence that researchers had informed them of the study or its real purpose. In fact, the men had been misled and had not been given all the facts required to provide informed consent. The advisory panel found nothing to show that subjects were ever given the choice of quitting the study, even when this new, highly effective treatment became widely used. The experiment continued in spite of the Henderson Act (1943), a public health law requiring testing and treatment for venereal disease, and in spite of the World Health Organization’s Declaration of Helsinki (1964), which specified that “informed consent” was needed for experiment involving human beings.

Eunice-Rivers&USPHS

In the summer of 1973, a class-action lawsuit was filed by the NAACP on behalf of the study participants and their families. In 1974, a $10 million out-of-court settlement was reached. As part of the settlement of a lawsuit the U.S. government agreed to provide free lifetime medical benefits and burial services to surviving participants and to surviving wives, widows and children infected as a consequence of the study.

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I know this may have been a long article to read, but there is a lot more information and viewpoints to this story that would take hours, perhaps days, to review and comprehend. I hope this post has brought about some enlightenment and maybe even inspired people to undertake a bit of soul-searching. If so, then I think I’ve done the job I intended and above all that makes me feel at least two of my goals were achieved. Thanks for stopping by 3GW.

– Supreme Soul (a black physician with a master’s degree in public health)