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Freedmen's Hospital and Howard University

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1862 [unknown]
Location: Washington, District of Columbiamap
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Freedmen’s Hospital was the predecessor to modern day Howard University Hospital. [1] It was established by the federal government during the American Civil War to meet the needs of thousands of newly freed African Americans that migrated to Washington, DC. [2] It was soon incorporated into Howard University and eventually developed into a first-rate medical campus. [3] The hospital was established by the secretary of war, Edward M. Stanton, in 1862. [4] [5] It was officially named Freemen’s Hospital in 1863. [6]

Freedmen’s Hospital became a teaching hospital for Howard University in 1868. [7] Freedmen’s Hospital was taken over by Howard University in 1967. [8] It continued to operate until 1975, President John F. Kennedy having signed a bill in 1961 authorizing a new, state-of-the-art facility be built and placed under the control of Howard University. The new facility opened 2 March 1975 and was named Howard University Hospital. [9] [10] The former hospital now houses the Howard University College of Nursing and College of Allied Health Sciences. [11]

Early administrators and faculty included:

  • Dr. Alexander T. Augusta (1825-1890). He was a surgeon of the US Army and a Lieutenant Colonel. He was one of only eight black doctors commissioned in the US Army at the time. He was also the first black hospital administrator in US history when he was appointed in 1863. He remained at the hospital until 1877.
  • Dr. Robert Reyburn was appointed administrator of the hospital in 1865. In 1866 he was appointed to the medical faculty of the proposed program at Howard University. This established the tie between the two institutions.
  • Dr. Charles B. Purvis was named surgeon-in-chief in 1973.
  • Anderson Ruffin Abbott. He was an African American faculty member from 1868 to 1877.
  • Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (1858-1931). He led the staff from 1894 to 1898. He is credited with performing the first open-heart surgery.
  • Dr. Austin M. Curtis was Chief Surgeon in 1897
  • Dr. William A. Warfield, Jr. was appointed Chief Surgeon in 1910
  • Dr. T. Edward Jones was named Surgeon-in-Chief in 1936
  • Dr. Charles R. Drew was a surgeon and hospital administrator. He was nationally famous for his research into blood plasma. He was also a medical professor at Howard University Medical School and chair of the school’s Department of Surgery from 1941 to 1950.

Some doctors who were trained at Howard University School of Medicine and/or Interned at the Freedmen's Hospital:

  • Dr. Nannie Stafford was born into slavery and was the first black woman to graduate as a Medical Doctor from Howard Medical School (there were two women who graduated from the class so they were both the first).
  • Dr. Herbert O. Matthews (1893-1968), son of an enslaved man, both trained and the University and Interned at the Hospital, before working at the Veteran's Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1937, he set up a private practice in Bessemer, Alabama.


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