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African American History at Duke Medicine

A guide to archival materials about African Americans at the Duke University Medical Center

Key Dates

Below is a selection of key dates important to the history of African Americans at Duke Medicine.

  • 1930  –  Duke Hospital opens on July 21. It admits African American patients, although the facilities are segregated and the hospital has fewer designated beds for blacks than for whites.
  • 1930  – Duke hires its first African American employees. Donald Love, who worked in pathology from 1930 until his retirement in 1974, is considered the first African American hire. 
  • 1948  –  Duke’s licensed practical nursing (LPN) program begins. Although there were already several others in the state, Duke’s is the only one in North Carolina established exclusively for training African American nurses.
  • 1963  – The School of Medicine admits the first African American student.
  • 1963-1965  – Duke Hospital is integrated.
  • 1970  –  Dr. Charles Johnson, the first African American faculty member, is appointed.
  • 1989  – The first meeting of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons is held at Duke.
  • 1991  – Duke begins new research program on health of black American entitled, “Health, Behavior and Aging in Black Americans,” believed to be the first such program in the country. 

Key Figures

Below is a selection of African American firsts at Duke Medicine, arranged alphabetically.

  • Onye Akwari – First black professor of surgery at Duke’s School of Medicine, 1978
  • Brenda Armstrong – First African American to serve as a full professor in pediatrics in the School of Medicine and the first to be board certified in pediatric cardiology in the U.S.
  • Haywood Brown – First African American chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical Center, 2002
  • James Carter – First African American professor of psychiatry at Duke’s School of Medicine, 1971
  • Charles Curry – First African American fellow in Adult Cardiology at Duke’s School of Medicine, 1982
  • Sayde Curry – First African American woman postgraduate trainee (Gastroenterology), 1969
  • Kafui Dzirasa – First black neurobiology Ph.D. student, 2007
  • Donna Allen Harris – First African American School of Nursing student, 1967
  • Prentiss L. Harrison – Nation’s first African American Physician Assistant; graduate of the Duke program, 1968
  • Eddie L. Hoover – First African American house officer, 1969
  • Danny O. Jacobs – First African American chair of Surgery at the Medical Center, 2003
  • Charles Johnson – First African American fellow in Endocrinology at Duke’s School of Medicine, 1967, and first African American faculty member, 1970
  • W. Delano Meriwether – First African American student admitted to Duke's School of Medicine, 1963   
  • Jean Spaulding – First African American woman to graduate from Duke’s School of Medicine, 1972
  • Joanne A. P. Wilson – First African American woman, and the first woman, to serve as a full professor in the Duke Department of Internal Medicine, 1986