James McCune Smith

Santren Patterson

Nation's 1st black doctor

James McCune Smith was the first African American to hold a medical degree and graduate at the top in his class at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He was born on April 28,1813, in New York City, NY and died on November 17, 1865, in Long Island, NY. He was also the first African American to run a pharmacy in the United States.

James McCune Smith and the Abolitionist Movement

Smith joined the Glasgow Emancipation Society and met people in the Scottish and English abolitionist movement. In 1833 Great Britain abolished slavery. When Smith returned to New York, he joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and worked for the cause in the United States. He worked effectively with both black and white abolitionists. He maintained a successful friendship and correspondence with Gerrit Smith that spanned the years from 1846-1865 (on the left of the photo)

Induction of James McCune Smith for his success

He was invited as a founding member of the New York Statistics Society in 1852, which promoted a new science. He was then elected as a member in 1854 of the recently founded American Geographic Society.

Memorial for James McCune Smith

Smith's achievements as a pioneering African-American doctor were rediscovered by 20th century historians. They were relearned by his descendants in the twenty-first century when a three-times-great-granddaughter took a history class and found his name in her grandmother's family bible. In 2010, several Smith descendants commissioned a new tombstone for his grave in Brooklyn. They gathered to honor him and their African-American ancestry.