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|A.B. Jackson, MD, JMC Class of 1901. (Courtesy of the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia)|
As Jefferson Medical College’s first African American graduate, Algernon Brashear Jackson created opportunities where none had previously existed. Born in 1878 in rural Indiana, he attended Indiana (University) Medical College and transferred to Jefferson Medical College in his senior year. Excluded from internship opportunities because of his race, Dr. Jackson immediately set up his practice at 772 S. 15th Street in Philadelphia. As he developed a clientele he was quickly appointed assistant surgeon at the all-white Philadelphia Polyclinic Hospital, a fact highlighted in several newspapers (one of which claimed he was the first and "only negro physician in the U.S." to hold such a post). In 1904, he co-founded the first African American Greek letter fraternity, Sigma Pi Phi, also known as the Boulé. His intention was to afford the dozen black physicians in Philadelphia access to the city’s African American leaders and to extend opportunities for others within the community. The Boulé continues to benefit many African Americans to this day.
|JMC College Building at 10th and Walnut Streets, erected 1898.|
One of the first demonstrations of this ambition was the establishment of the city’s second hospital for African Americans. Partnering with black alumnus Henry McKee Minton (JMC 1906) and others, Dr. Jackson symbolically opened its doors on Lincoln's birthday in 1907. In The Jeffersonian, April 1912, Dr. Jackson was reported to be "a very successful surgeon, and is largely responsible for the foundation of...the Mercy Hospital for Colored People, at 17th and Fitzwater streets."
He was named its first superintendent and surgeon-in-chief, and his leadership afforded many positions for non-white doctors, technicians and staff and created a School for Nurses that continued until the institution closed in 1973. Recognized as the first African American Fellow of the American College of Physicians in 1917, Jackson became head of the Department of Bacteriology, Public Health and Hygiene at Howard University College of Medicine in the 1920s. He published widely in American and English medical journals, lectured and also wrote on public policy and health education (he included sociologist and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois as his friend and colleague). He produced several successful popular books such as Jim and Mr. Eddy: a Dixie Motorlogue (1930), which to blended humor and social commentary. Dr. Jackson died in Washington, D.C. in 1942.
His memory is celebrated at Howard University in the form of the Jackson Prize for the best public health thesis. TJU has established a scholarship program named after its first and very notable African American son.
For more information about the history of diversity at Jefferson, see our online exhibit.
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