Dr. James McCune Smith was born on April 18th, 1813 in NYC, NY. He was an american physician, author, apothecary and abolitionist.
Dr. Smith was the first african american to hold a medical degree. He was an internal medicine physician and graduated at the top of his class at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.
Dr. Smith was also the first african american to run a pharmacy in the U.S. He contributed articles to medical journals as well. He was involved in learned societies and wrote many essays from his medical and statistical training and experience. His training was used to refute common misconceptions about race, intelligence, medicine and society in general.
He was mostly know for his leadership as an abolitionist. As a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society with Frederick Douglass, he helped start the National Council of Colored People in 1853 – The first permanent national organization for blacks.
Dr. Smith and his wife were mixed race African and European ancestry. As he became economically wealthy, he built a house in a good neighborhood. In the 1860 census he and his family were classified in that neighborhood as white. In 1850 they were mulatto. He worked for 20 years as the doctor at the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York. After it was burned down in July 1863 by a mob in a New York Draft Riot where nearly 100 blacks were killed, Dr. Smith and his family moved to practice in Brooklyn for safety.
Smith’s achievements were rediscovered by twentieth century historians. They were released by his descendants in the twenty first century when a three time great granddaughter took a history class and found his name in her grandmother’s family bible. In 2010 several Smith descendants commissioned a new tombstone for his grave in Brooklyn.
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