African American physicians and organized medicine, 1846-1968: origins of a racial divide

JAMA. 2008 Jul 16;300(3):306-13. doi: 10.1001/jama.300.3.306. Epub 2008 Jul 10.


Like the nation as a whole, organized medicine in the United States carries a legacy of racial bias and segregation that should be understood and acknowledged. For more than 100 years, many state and local medical societies openly discriminated against black physicians, barring them from membership and from professional support and advancement. The American Medical Association was early and persistent in countenancing this racial segregation. Several key historical episodes demonstrate that many of the decisions and practices that established and maintained medical professional segregation were challenged by black and white physicians, both within and outside organized medicine. The effects of this history have been far reaching for the medical profession and, in particular, the legacy of segregation, bias, and exclusion continues to adversely affect African American physicians and the patients they serve.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / history*
  • American Medical Association / history*
  • Civil Rights / history*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Prejudice*
  • Societies, Medical / history*
  • United States