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Black doctors fight hospital discrimination: 1960 | by Washington Area Spark
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Black doctors fight hospital discrimination: 1960

Attendees at the Fourth Imhotep National Conference on Hospital Integration May 27-28, 1960 at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.


William Montague Cobb, who founded and led the conference, is in the back row, far right. NAACP lobbyist Clarence Mitchell is in the front row at the far left. Edward C. Mazique, president of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Washington, may be the man in the second row, second from right.


The conference was sponsored by the National Medical Association's Council on Medical Education and Hospitals, the NAACP's National Health Committee, and the Medico-Chirurgical Society of the District of Columbia and a host of organizations around the country attended.


The conference brought together “representatives of all interests among hospitals, the public, the healing professions and government agencies. The job is to secure complete integration of the physicians and patients,” according to the Baltimore Afro-American.


Named for the early Egyptian physician Imhotep, the conference met annually between 1957 and 1963.


The committee leadership included Cobb, Clarence Mitchell of the NAACP, Julius Thomas of the Urban League, Edward C. Mazique, president of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Washington, D.C., and Robert Pierre Johnson, minister of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church.


Mazique told the gathering that non-white doctors in the north encounter “problems that are as great as the problem in the south.”


“We have achieved a great deal in Washington, but there is still much to be done,” Mazique said was quoted in the Afro American.


All public and private hospitals, except one in the district have black doctors on staff but, “there should be more colored doctors on hospital staffs,” he continued.


Mazique said that the path to breaking down hospital discrimination lay in legal action, promotion of federal legislation and the demands for non-discrimination in health plans sponsored by the federal government or private firms.


While the District’s hospitals now permitted black physicians, some of the hospitals still practiced discrimination against patients, segregating them according to race and turning away black patients if those designated for black patients were full.


Nationwide, as late as the mid 1960s, hospital discrimination was widespread throughout the United States and, in many jurisdictions, legally sanctioned. Discrimination was expressed through denial of staff privileges to minority physicians and dentists, refusal to admit minority applicants to nursing and residency training programs, and failure to provide medical, surgical, pediatric, and obstetric services to minority patients.


The final nails in the coffin of overt discrimination in hospitals began with the case of Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital decided in 1963 that had successfully challenged the use of federal funds at segregated hospitals.


The passage of Medicare in 1965 essentially ended legal discrimination in hospitals since all participated in Medicare which involved federal funds. The second court case, Cypress v Newport News Hospital Association (1967), reaffirmed the federal government’s application of Medicare certification guidelines to force hospitals to open up patient admissions, education programs, and staff privileges to all citizens and physicians.


Mazique was the husband of civil and women's rights activist Jewell Mazique until their high profile divorce where Jewell Mazique lost her appeal to gain a share of her husband's earnings in an early case. Twenty years later women's claims were upheld.


For more information and related images, see


Photo by Scurlock Studios. The image is. courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History: Archives Center


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Taken on May 27, 1960