A prescription for desegregation
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The American Civil Rights Movement that in many respects defined the 20th century was itself defined by its leaders. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X are today household names. While these nationally recognized figures are certainly iconic of the Movement, consider, too, as leaders the African-American physicians of the Civil Rights era. We hold our doctors in high regard and to high standards of moral and just behavior, and it is nothing controversial to consider a physician to be a community leader. With the 20th century issues of segregation both in higher education and in the practice of healthcare in mind, what was the role of African-American physicians as leaders in the Civil Rights Movement of the era? It is easy to imagine that black physicians were bound by the Jim Crow laws in the South and--until federal intervention--were unable to receive a medical education or practice their craft in a desegregated context. However, evidence offered in the form of oral accounts given by African-American physicians working in Texas during the 20th century gives a different perspective. It is revealed that these physicians were at the forefront of their own civil rights effort early after the Second World War. The nature of African-American physician involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and the effect that the Movement had on the lives of these individuals are intertwined. Just as the experiences of African-American physicians in the mid-twentieth century were heavily shaped by the social and political contexts of the era, in turn these physicians helped to shape the social realities in which they worked.
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