Little Known Black History Fact: Dr. James Thomas Still

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  • Dr. James Thomas Still of Medford, NJ was a well-known African-American Doctor in the mid-19th century. He was the son of James Still Sr., who many called “The black doctor,” even though he had no medical training. In 1871, James Still Jr. graduated from Harvard Medical School with honors. He took his talent to the army as a surgeon in the second battalion of the Massachusetts Voluntary Militia for three years.

    Upon graduation, Dr. Still established his own medical practice which led to his appointment as the first black elected to the Boston School Board in 1874. Still helped many people succeed along the way. With his assistance, Elizabeth Smith – the daughter of an abolitionist- became the first black teacher for the Boston public school system. Dr. Still also served on the Board of Directors at the Home for Aged Colored Women, assisting many women that were former Boston slaves and servants.

    While he was active in philanthropy and education, Dr. Still wrote a number of articles, journals and books. “Don’t Tell White Folks: or Light Out of Darkness” was a 31-page document that targeted race relations in 1889. He did not hide his belief in education for African-Americans or his dislike of segregation, but understood the need for separate groups that were solely for blacks.  He spoke proudly about the black voters rights and the lack of respect by the Republican Party.

    Dr. James Still, Jr. cared for the African-Americans of Boston until he passed away in 1895 from kidney disease. He was 54 years-old.

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