What an 1837 Orphanage can teach us about 2020 Minnesota.

Destruction of the NYC Colored Orphan Asylum in the Draft Riots of 1863. Credit Allamy

When James McCune Smith arrived in New York in 1837, M.D. in hand, one of his first tasks was refuting an autopsy report that blamed Black people for their own deaths. It was one of (too) many nineteenth-century memories evoked by the May 2020 death of George Floyd.

These past few weeks have reminded me powerfully of the work of James McCune Smith, the first African American to earn an M.D.. Smith thought he would deploy his hard-earned scientific training easing the pain of the sick in his community. Instead, he spent much of his life demonstrating that their pain wasn’t self-inflicted. 

I’m delighted that “James McCune Smith and Medicine’s Racist Legacy” has been published at Avidly, a Channel of the L.A. Review of Books. To read the rest of this article, please go here.

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