Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Curtis Patton


African Americans have had a long and interesting history at the Yale School of Medicine. Through extensive researching of primary and secondary sources this history is documented for the first time. The first African-American known to have graduated from the School was Dr. Courtlandt Van Rensselaer Creed. Because of strong abolitionist sentiment at Yale and in New Haven during the 1850s and his familys prominence in New Haven, Dr. Creed was able to matriculate into the School of Medicine in 1854. He graduated in 1857 and practiced in New Haven. He also served as a surgeon in the Civil War. Two more African-Americans graduated from the Yale School of Medicine in 1875 and 1876. These students, Dr. Bayard T. Smith and Dr. George R. Henderson, transferred to Yale from Lincoln University. In 1888 the School of Medicine became a leader in African-American medical education, graduating eight African-Americans in 12 years. Many of these people made significant contributions to medicine and their community. This lead was lost when a rise in intolerance caused Yales Schools of Medicine and Nursing to adopt an unwritten policy of racial exclusion. The policy was disclosed in 1941 when an African-American applicant applying to the School of Nursing was turned away due to her race. In the controversy that followed, the policy was rescinded and African-Americans were again allowed to attend the Medical and Nursing Schools. In 1948 Dr. Beatrix A. McCleary became the first African-American woman to graduate from the School of Medicine. African-Americans continued to graduate from the School at a rate of approximately one every other year until 1960. By using this history as a guide, it is thought that the Yale School of Medicine can better recognize the contributions made by its African-American students and take steps to regain its leadership role in African-American medical education.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access