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James Still: Image courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia

Practice and Protest: Early Black Physicians and the Competing Demands of Professional Life and Racial Activism

Brown Bag Talk by Brian Powers, Institute of Medicine Staff Member

Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Keck Center, 500 Fifth St., N.W., Room 105

No charge; Reservations and photo ID required

Bring your lunch; drinks will be provided


Join IOM staff member Brian Powers as he discusses his award-winning Bowdoin College honors thesis, “Practice and Protest: Early Black Physicians and the Competing Demands of Professional Life and Racial Activism.”

Before the Civil War, medicine in the United States was in a state of transition, with standards of professionalism not fully established. As a result, the American medical community had not yet developed the mechanisms for systematically excluding blacks, and African American physicians were able to practice in the mainstream, rather than in segregated institutions. However, at a time when the majority of blacks were enslaved, race added a complicating factor as these physicians grappled with the simultaneous and often competing demands of medicine and racial activism.

Forced to reconcile life as physicians with the racial implications of their success, many early black practitioners shifted their energies towards public protest and activism.  In doing so, they encountered a central professional dilemma: practice and protest were ideologically compatible, but within a competitive professional climate, sustained engagement in both was impossible.

This lecture is sponsored by the African American History Program of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine.

Click here to visit the African American History Program Web site

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