The Underappreciated Doctors of The American Civil Rights Movement. Part I: Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard, MD

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Abstract

During the fight to end segregation in the United States, most of the 25 or so black physicians who had not already left Mississippi took risks to become active in civil rights locally and nationally. One of the first was T.R.M. Howard, MD, whose life story is both an encouragement and warning for today's physicians. Howard, the protégé of a white Adventist physician, became active in civil rights during medical school. While serving as chief surgeon of the all-black hospital in Mississippi, he formed his own civil rights organization in 1951 and worked to solve the shootings of 2 of its members, George Lee and Gus Courts, and the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. His reports of these events and collaborations with other civil rights icons helped trigger the modern civil rights movement. At the same time, he became a nationally known proponent of abortion rights and then fled to Chicago in 1956, after arming his Delta mansion with long guns and a Thompson machine gun. Howard will be remembered for many things, including his activism for the social determinants of health as president of the National Medical Association.

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