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Black History at Duke Health

A guide to archival materials about Black history at the Duke Health

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, Dr. Delano Meriwether. He graduated with honors in 1967.
  • 1963-1965  – Duke Hospital is integrated.
  • 1966 -- Dr. Jacqueline Johnson Jackson, the first tenured female black faculty member in the School of Medicine, joins Duke as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.
  • 1968- Prentiss Harrison is the first African-American graduate of the Duke Physician Assistant Program, and the first African-American physician assistant in the nation.
  • 1970  –  Dr. Charles Johnson is joins the Duke PDC and is appointed assistant professor in the Department of Medicine.
  • 1970 - Joyce Nichols is the first woman to graduate from the Duke Physician Assistant Program, and also is the first female African-American graduate of the program.
  • 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.
  • 2018 -- Jacqueline S. Barnett, DHSc, MSHS, PA-C, becomes first African-American program director of the Duke Physician Assistant Program.

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.
  • Jacqueline S. Barnett- First African American director of the Physician Assistant Program
  • 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
  • Jacquelyne J. Jackson- First tenured female black faculty member in Duke's School of Medicine
  • 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