Science History Institute Lunchtime Lecture: Ezelle Sanford III

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - 1:00pm

"Segregated Medicine: How Racial Politics Shaped St. Louis's Healthcare System. (1937-1979)"


Opening in 1937, St. Louis’s Homer G. Phillips Hospital emerged as the nation's largest segregated African American hospital in the United States.  The municipal teaching hospital provided much needed, yet segregated, care to the Black residents of St. Louis and the Midwest more generally.  The prestigious teaching hospital gained a global reputation as a training ground for African American nurses, allied health professionals, and medical specialists who were excluded from other training opportunities in Jim Crow America. Yet the case of “Homer G.” as it has come to be affectionately known by Black St. Louisans, is instructive as it tracked the much larger transition from segregated to post-segregated healthcare and medical education in the United States.   While this larger history of exclusion is often told as a story of discontinuity, from the grassroots perspective of Homer G. Phillips Hospital African Americans continued to fight for health equity amid the deeply embedded structural racial inequities persisting in post-segregated America.

This talk draws from Ezelle Sanford’s emerging book project, Segregated Medicine: How Racial Politics Shaped American Healthcare which situates the grassroots story of continued structural inequality amid the national transition from race-based to class-based healthcare over the twentieth century.  Centering the work, motivations, strategy, and pragmatism of African Americans, Segregated Medicine argues that the history of racial segregation, the transition to post-segregated care following the limited success of the “medical civil rights movement,” combined with the economic anxieties of the 1970s, laid the ground for today’s health disparities.