The years 1865 through the mid-1960’s were the prime decades of the Black hospital movement. During that time, when most hospitals with adequate equipment were segregated, the Black hospital movement was designed to give Black physicians a way to treat patients and study medicine through lectures, workshops, and training sessions. Their goal was to improve the health of the Black community and offset the inequities with respect to health care facilities and practices.
Through the movement, Black physicians and government funding established the Freedmen’s Bureau. The bureau built and operated 90 health care facilities throughout the South, including black asylums, poorhouses, children’s homes, institutions for the deaf and infirmaries. Freedman’s Hospital in D.C., Provident in Chicago, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia and Lincoln Hospital in Durham, North Carolina were all built as part of the Black hospital movement.
In the later years of FDR’s New Deal, monies were provided by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Civil Works Administration, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Federal Housing Administration and the Works Progress Administration for a new healthcare program targeting the African-American community.
Increased integration meant that many of the hospitals serving the black community took a backseat to integrated hospitals. Some, like Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., remain. But these pioneering hospitals served their purpose during times that segregation extended even to life and death situations.