African-American Doctors in Houston

Local history educators say the story of African-American doctors in Houston needs to be better-known than it is, so they've created a website to tell the stories of some of Houston's most remarkable medical pioneers. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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University of Houston History professor Kathleen Brosnan says very often, black studies tend to focus on slavery and civil rights, and while that's all well and good, it's often at the expense of the stories of ordinary but successful African-Americans whose accomplishments and contributions are largely overlooked.

"We tend to lose track of the fact that African-Americans are like all Americans, and have left a rich tapestry of history that needs to be explored. And I think very few Americans know that there was a strong black professional class, including the physicians who are captured in this exhibit."

Brosnan has helped create a website that includes biographies, narratives, oral history interviews and photographs of Houston's medical pioneers, such as Dr. Franklin Robey, one of Houston's first African-American doctors.ξ

"Doctor Robey was born a slave. And of course with the end of the Civil War, and Emancipation, he had an opportunity to pursue an education. Doctor Robey eventually settled in Houston.ξ He was one of the first three black doctors in Houston, he came around 1887."
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Dr. Robey started a family tradition. Two of his great-great-grand daughters are now practicing physicians in Houston. Other pioneers include the doctors who founded the old Houston Negro Hospital, which is now Riverside Hospital, and Dr. Edith Irby Jones, a share-cropper's daughter who broke the color barrier at the University of Arkansas medical school in 1948. Dr. Jones was the first African-American woman in residency at Baylor College of Medicine, and she's still practicing in Houston's Third Ward.

These are just a few of the individuals whose stories are on the new website at the University of Houston Center For Public History. Brosnan says they want to show students and others that ordinary people can make history, and they can do the same.

"We hope that the exhibit will inspire students across Houston, but minority students in particular, to contemplate professional careers, be it in medicine, being historians, being attorneys, but to really see education as the key to their success."

The website is titled "To Bear Fruit For Our Race: A History of African-American Physicians in Houston", and there's a link to it on our website KUHF dot org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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