He couldn’t go to medical school in New York, so James McCune Smith went to Scotland for his degree and returned home to treat the city’s poor.
The degree he earned in 1837 made him the nation’s first professionally trained African-American doctor. He set up a medical practice in lower Manhattan and became the resident physician at an orphanage.
Celebrated during his lifetime as a teacher, writer and anti-slavery leader, Smith fell into obscurity after his death in 1865 and was buried in an unmarked grave.
On Sunday, descendants who only recently learned they had a black ancestor, will honor Smith at his Brooklyn grave. It will be marked with a new tombstone.
“He was one of the leaders within the movement to abolish slavery, and he was one of the most original and innovative writers of his time,” said John Stauffer, a professor of African-American studies at Harvard University who has written about Smith and edited a collection of his works.
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