Remembering A Legacy

James McCune Smith | AFS Bios | Examination Days: The New York African Free  School Collection
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Hunter Epperson ~ Staff Writer

     Feb. 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month – a month designated to members of the Black community who have made an impact in the Black community. 

     During the month of Feb., Black icons such as Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, and Malcom X are recognized, but there are many unsung heroes that also need to be celebrated during Black History Month. Do not get me wrong, those individuals did make an impact for the Black community and civil rights, but I would like to recognize a figure within the Black community during Black History Month many individuals may not have heard of – James McCune Smith.  

     James McCune Smith, MD was the first African American to to receive a medical degree. “McCune received his medical degree from the University of Glasgow Medical School due to racist admissions practices in US medical schools,” stated Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Not to mention, Smith was also the first African American “to own and operate a pharmacy in the United States, and was the first black physician to be published in US medical journals,” according to AAMC. 

     Smith also “used his writing to challenge shoddy science, including racist notions of African-Americans; such as theories in Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. […] [He] was also an absolisonst and friend of Federick Douglass, allowing him to contribute to Douglass’s newspaper, and wrote the introduction to his book titled My Bondage and My Freedom,” said AAMC. 

     While it is critical to remember the icons like Martin Luther King, W.E.B. Du Bois, Rosa Parks, and Malcom X, it is also important to consider the other important figures who may not be as recognized or talked about during Black History Month, like James McCune Smith. Black History Month is about honoring everyone who has played a crucial part in the revolution of civil rights.

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