Courage and Determination

A History of Black Physicians in Texas

Monroe A. Majors

Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, of Waco was the first black Texas native to obtain a medical degree (1886, Meharry Medical College)

      The Lone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association was established on Aug. 25, 1886 as only the second medical professionals organization for African-Americans in the U.S. Shut out from admission to the Texas Medical Association, locally, and the American Medical Association, nationally, because of their race, 15 prominent black physicians and pharmacists met in Galveston to establish their own statewide group.  In commemoration, the TBHPP is proud to present this digital exhibit, courtesy of the TMA, recording the path of black doctors, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists who served the state’s African-American community and were advocates for improving their health concerns.

The 2010 exhibit, curated by TMA Knowledge Center archivist and exhibits coordinator Betsy Tyson, is the first-ever statewide effort to chronicle early African-American physicians in Texas and was initially displayed at the TMA History of Medicine gallery. The exhibit highlights the struggles of early African-American physicians in Texas and follows the history of pioneers such as Quinton Belvedre Neal, the first African-American to practice medicine in Texas in 1882 in Goliad, and Frank Bryant Jr., the first African-American to serve on TMA’s governing body, the House of Delegates, in 1983. Some were born slaves, such as Franklin R. Robey, MD, of Houston and some were the children of slaves, such as George M. Munchus, MD, of Fort Worth.

Maps, vintage images, and artifacts from the TMA archives and a time line traces key events starting in 1837 and continuing until 2009 when TMA elected its first African-American president, William H. Fleming III, MD, a Houston neurologist. Dr. Fleming worked with TMA staff to develop the title concept for the exhibit and credits the pioneer African-American physicians with laying the groundwork for later generations.

“I stand on the shoulders of the African-American physicians who came before me, like Dr. Frank Bryant,” Dr. Fleming said. “The stories of brave doctors in this exhibit fill me with humility and pride. But there is more to do. I hope these stories inspire more young African-American men and women to go into medicine.”
Under Jim Crow laws in the South, African-Americans could only attend medical schools established specifically for black students such as Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Meharry Medical College in Nashville. Hospitals also were segregated by law and custom.

Segregation had a profound impact on the health of minorities in the South. In 1900, the rate of tuberculosis mortality among African-Americans was three times greater than among whites.

The TMA exhibit is the first-ever statewide effort to chronicle early African-American physicians in Texas and includes:

  • A Texas map identifying cities with African-American physician practices in 1890, 1914, and 1954, depicting the movement from East to West Texas and from rural to more urban centers.
  • A photograph of the Lone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association annual meeting in Houston in 1909, the only known image of Mary Susan Moore, MD, of Galveston, the
    first-African American woman to practice medicine in Texas.
    lonestarmed

    Members of the Lone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association meeting in Houston, 1909

  • Images of black hospitals established as part of the national Black Hospital Movement, such as Hammond Hospital established in 1916 in Bryan, Houston Negro Hospital established in 1926, and
    Dickey Clinic established in 1935 in Taylor.
  • Images of the first African-Americans to graduate from Texas medical schools beginning with Herman Aladdin Barnett, III, MD, a 1953 graduate of The University of Texas Medical Branch in
    Galveston (Barnett was the school’s first black medical student), and others in leadership roles for TMA and Texas medicine.
  • Images and biographies reflecting the courage and determination of more than 60 physicians from all regions of the state.

fleming.prez

William H. Fleming, III, first African-American president of the Texas Medical Association (2009)

       In 2013, the Texas Medical Board reported 2,570 black physicians out of 53,235 total physicians in Texas.
The TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing nearly 45,000 physicians and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 120 component county medical societies around the state. The TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.