How Black Doctors Shaped California's History

We’re talking about physicians who saw medicine as treating the environment that their patients live in.

John William Templeton, Historian

Creator of the California African-American Freedom Trail tour

Since California’s first Black doctor began practicing in the 1850s, African American physicians have been instrumental in the development of California’s medical sciences. Led by historian and creator of the California African American Freedom Trail, John William Templeton, our January Collaboratory honored the historical figures who broke through countless barriers to serve their communities and alter the course of history.

For this month's Collaboratory, audience members took a walk through California's rich Black history. Guest learned about Black doctors who founded hospitals to treat patients when they were not allowed to seek treatment at the local area hospitals, doctors who founded banks to increase homeownership since lending was a discriminatory practice that most black people faced, doctors who took up social issues by becoming the heads of the NAACP's California chapter, as well as doctors who were responsible for eventually ending segregation in hospitals. Audience members also learned about programs that are working to increase the visibility of the profession of medicine and healthcare to Black and Brown youth. Overall the audience learned how forward-thinking and proactive Black doctors in California have been at addressing the health disparities of their communities through holistic approaches to improving the environment that their patients were coming from. 

Listen to the full audio recording here!

(Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to record the live stream, but we were able to capture low-quality audio.)

Historical Black Figures to Note

  • Dr. Monroe Majors was the first Black person to pass the California medical examination in 1888
  • Dr. Ezra Johnson had an office just 50 yards from the first American flag planted in California at Portsmouth Square
  • Pharmacist W. Byron Rumford passed Fair Housing Act in 1963
  • Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett ran for governor in 1966
  • Dr. Dan Collins became a member of the State Board of Education
  • Dr. Zuretti Goosby among first balck members of S.F. Board of Education
  • Dr. Henry Lucas, a power in Republican politics
  • Dr. Richard Whitaker came to Los Angeles in 1922 and built the Dunbar Hospital
  • Drs. John and Vada Somerville were the first Black graduates of USC and built the Dunbar Hotel
  • Dr. Curtis King built the Rose Netta Hospital in 1929, which hosted the first interracial blood bank in 1942.
  • Dr. Arthur Coleman built a practice in S.F. and started the Transbay Savings Bank to provide mortgage

    tweet of quote from John Templeton