Meet the Man Who Became America's First Black Doctor in 1837

Dr. James McCune Smith, first African American doctor

Dr. James McCune Smith, one of the leaders of the movement in the 1800s to abolish slavery, is best known for becoming the first African American medical doctor. He is also known as one of the most original and innovative writers of his time
Because of prejudice and racism, Smith could not enroll at a medical school in New York, so he decided to move to Scotland to obtain his education. And that's exacty what he did!

Smith graduated at the top in his class at the University of Glasgow where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1835, a Master of Art in 1836, and a Medical Doctorate in 1837.

Afterwards, he sought additional clinical training in Paris, France and then returned to the U.S. to set up a medical practice in lower Manhattan. He also was a resident physician at a local orphanage for more than 20 years. Smith used his platform to help many uneducated Blacks in New York City, teaching them how to read, write, spell, and solve math problems.

Among his other achievements, Smith also became the first African-American to publish scholarly studies in peer-reviewed medical journals. He also wrote essays countering theories of Black racial inferiority.

He also became the first African American to ever own and operate a pharmacy.

What's interesting is that Smith was born into slavery in 1813 in New York City and was set free in 1827 at the age of just 14. His father was her white master. But that didn't stop him from defying the odds, and becoming a history maker still celebrated to this day!