Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Russell F. Minton, February 18, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - On the founding of Mercy Hospital

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Partial Transcript: Oh yeah, sure. No problem with that. Are you any relation to Theophilus Minton?

Segment Synopsis: Hardy asks Minton about his relation to Theophilus Minton, someone who many believe was the founder of Mercy-Douglass Hospital. Minton corrects this claim and says Mercy Hospital was an offshoot of Douglass Hospital which was founded by Dr. Mossell and Dr. Hinson. Minton then speaks about how the two founding doctors acquired the land on which the hospital was built.

Keywords: 50th Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Douglass Hospital; Dr. Eugene Hinson; Dr. Nathan Francis Mossell; Dr. Russell F. Minton; Henry Minton; Medical school; Medicine; Mercy Hospital; Theophilus Minton

Subjects: Hospitals--Administration; Medical centers--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia; Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.)

00:03:01 - Minton goes from electrician to head of radiology

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, now, I didn’t finish medicine until 1929, and of course, I interned at Mercy Hospital. And of course, every other colored doctor in the state of Pennsylvania interned at Mercy Hospital, because there was no other place that would accept them.

Segment Synopsis: Minton talks about his involvement with Mercy Hospital as he went through his education and career. While Minton was putting electricity in Mercy Hospital, he gained an interest in radiology after installing the hospital's x-ray machine. Minton later became Head of Radiology despite the fact he did not know much about radiology. He speaks of attending Columbia University through a Julius Rosenwald Scholarship, and how he could not get hired anywhere other than Mercy Hospital because of racial prejudice.

Keywords: Chicago (Ill.); Columbia University; Dr. Russell F. Minton; Electricians; Julius Rosenwald Scholarship; Los Angeles (Calif.); Mercy Hospital; Mercy-Douglass Hospital; New York; Philadelphia (Pa); Philippines; Prejudice; Radiology; Santa Domingo; X-Ray Department

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Education (Higher); Discrimination in employment.; Medical education; Race discrimination.; Radiology.

00:06:43 - Mercy-Douglass Hospital in the 1950s, its improvements and challenges

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Partial Transcript: Now I might say that, uh, before that time I was appointed as superintendent of Mercy-Douglass Hospital wherefore--at which I was the superintendent from 1949 to 1956.

Segment Synopsis: Minton speaks about the general improvements Mercy-Douglass Hospital made to meet the requirements for training residents, interns, and others. He then shares how other hospitals, including University of Pennsylvania, helped keep the hospital running and how Mercy-Douglass Hospital continued to run into debt. Minton also speaks on how the hospital found it difficult to get interns and started to lose accreditation as a result.

Keywords: Academy of Medicine; Dr. Holloway; Dr. Magnus; Dr. Ravdin; Governor James H. Duff; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Housing; Interns; Jefferson Hospital; Mercy-Douglass Hospital; Money; Resident training; Residents; Senate; Shifts; Social services; Superintendents; Surgery Department; University of Pennsylvania

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Hospitals--Administration; Medical centers--Finance; Medical centers--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia; Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.)

00:14:15 - The closing of Mercy-Douglass Hospital

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Partial Transcript: In ’73, I think--no, not se--it was later than that. Well, anyway, they’ve been closed three to four years.

Segment Synopsis: Minton speaks about how Mercy-Douglass Hospital closed in the 1970s because it could not compete with Temple, Jefferson, and other regional hospitals. The end of the Civil Rights Era, Minton says, allowed African American physicians to join the staff of previously segregated hospitals and also opened the door for Black medical students, making Mercy Hospital less appealing for medical work. Minton says the closing of Mercy-Douglass Hospital was due to three aspects: an incompetent board of directors, inefficient business management, and integration.

Keywords: Black medical students; Black physicians; Board of directors; Civil Rights Era; Closing; Einstein North; Einstein South; Integration; Jefferson; Jewish; Management; Mercy Fitzgerald; Mercy-Douglass Hospital; Mount Sinai Hospital; Philadelphia; Segregation; Temple University Hospital; University of Pennsylvania

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Segregation; Hospitals--Administration; Medical centers--Finance; Medical centers--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia; Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.)

00:17:11 - On Mercy-Douglass’s patients and disproving false claims

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Partial Transcript: So the population of the, uh, patients in the Mercy-Douglass Hospital was over 65 percent white. Which of course didn’t mean anything, but it was just the location.

Segment Synopsis: Minton talks about how the patient ratio of Mercy-Douglass Hospital was more white than Black before they closed. He recalls how white patients felt being tended to by Black physicians, and how white physicians made false claims about Black patients. Minton then talks about how he learned how to read x-rays through radiology and disprove the false claims white physicians used to make about the x-rays of anthropoid pelvises of Black women.

Keywords: Black nurses; Black patients; Black women; Cobbs Creek; Darby; False claims; Mercy-Douglass Hospital; Obstetrics Department; Pelvis; Route One; University of Pennsylvania; White patients; White physicians; Woodland Avenue; X-Ray Department

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Health and hygiene.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Medical centers--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia; Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.); Race discrimination.; Racism

00:20:37 - The formation of Mercy-Douglass Hospital and impact of Dr. Stubbs

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Partial Transcript: Why, why did the, uh--did Dr. Hinson split from, from Mossell and Douglass, and, and decide to find hi--found his own hospital?

Segment Synopsis: When Hardy asks why Dr. Hinson split from Dr. Mossell and Douglass, Minton explains the rivalry between the Mercy and Douglass hospitals until the two merged together in 1948 to form Mercy-Douglass Hospital. He talks about what distinguished the two hospitals from each other and how Douglass lost its accreditation until Dr. Stubbs, a surgeon from Cleveland Hospital, fixed Douglass Hospital's program as the new director. Dr. Stubbs, he shares, was the first Black resident in surgery in Cleveland Hospital and known as a "surgical Renaissance man."

Keywords: 1929; 1948; 50th Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Accreditation; Black residents; Cleveland Hospital; Directors; Douglass Hospital; Dr. Eugene Hinson; Dr. Nathan Francis Mossell; Dr. Stubbs; Formation; Hahnemann; Interns; Jefferson; Mercy Hospital; Mercy-Douglass Hospital; Mergers; Philadelphia General; Physicians; Prejudice; Rivalry; Specialists; Temple University; Tuberculosis; University of Pennsylvania; Wilmington

Subjects: African American leadership; African American physicians; Hospitals--Administration; Medical centers--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia; Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.)

00:26:45 - Minton family history

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Partial Transcript: When you were, um, a young man, before you became a doctor, during the nineteen--when were you born, Dr. Minton?

Segment Synopsis: Minton and Hardy go back and forth talking about Minton's background in medicine and his and his family’s activities during the Great Migration with the Negro Migration Committee, Armstrong Association, and other agencies that helped migrants come up during World War I. Minton also recounts his involvement with the Phipps Institute, which treated Black Philadelphians diagnosed with tuberculosis. Minton mentions he worked down at the Phipps Institute for four years taking care of children with his uncle.

Keywords: 1900; 1920; 7th and Lombard Street; Armstrong Association (Philadelphia affiliate of the National Urban League); Black Philadelphians; Black residents; Born; Boy Scouts; City Health Department; Civil Service Exam; Dr. Strugis; Dr.Bucco; Gonorrhea; Mercy Hospital; Myths; Negro Migration Committee (Philadelphia--World War I); Phipps Institute; Syphilis; Uncles; University of Pennsylvania; World War I

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Health and hygiene.; African Americans--Societies, etc.; Migration, Internal.; Tuberculosis

00:31:05 - On treating tuberculosis and proving the disease is not racially linked

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Partial Transcript: To explain to them that my studies proved to me that tuberculosis was not a racial thing, by any means.

Segment Synopsis: Minton speaks about how his medical studies proved to him and others tuberculosis was not a race based disease. He explains the socioeconomic roots of the disease, which spread due to poor families living in really close quarters, many of whom were African American. He then talks about how they treated tuberculosis, and the rejection of the link between race and tuberculosis, noting "a germ is blind, it cannot see skin color.”

Keywords: Broad Street; Dr. Gordon; Dr.Stubbs; French; Howard Clinic; Italians; Jefferson; Jewish; Medical studies; Patients; Phipps Institute; Poor; Prejudice; Segregation; Socioeconomic status; Students; White Haven

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Health and hygiene.; African Americans--Housing.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Racism; Tuberculosis

00:35:30 - The medical treatment of southern newcomers

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Partial Transcript: Now, when, when you, uh, first started practicing, there were still many people coming up from the South.

Segment Synopsis: Minton talks of the belief that southern migrants had more health problems than Philadelphians and how he never saw any noticeable health differences between the two groups. He recounts how he practiced in different places during the Great Depression, how hospitals in different cities compared to each other in their treatment methods, and mentions how he had to go teach in the South. Minton speaks about how he could not get onto certain hospital staffs such as Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Keywords: 1913; Ardmore; Baltimore (Md.); Banks; Black physicians; Bryn Mawr Hospital; Chicago (Ill.); Deep South; Dr. Tunnel; Great Depression; Howard University; Hubbard Hospital; Jefferson; Jobs; Ku Klux Klan; Main Line (Philadelphia, Pa.); Nashville (Tenn.); New York; Norristown; North Philadelphia; Pennsylvania State University; Philadelphia General; Post-graduate; Provident Hospital; Radiology; Rosenwald Scholarship; Socioeconomic status; South; South Carolina; South Philadelphia; Tuskegee, Alabama; Washington; West Philadelphia; White specialists

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Health and hygiene.; African Americans--Segregation; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Racism; Tuberculosis

00:42:18 - On African Americans returning to the South

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Partial Transcript: Mostly with people who came up from the South. Most ,most of them say, if they were younger, they, they’d head on back.

Segment Synopsis: Hardy and Minton discuss how people from the South would move back now if they were younger, to return to their homes. Minton then speaks about his 12 years of living and teaching at Tuskegee. He also briefly touches on the many problems caused down there by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and how people dealt with them.

Keywords: Alabama; Argonne Forest; Black patients; Chemistry; Deep South; Dr. Kenney; Dr. Moton; Dr. Washington; Marie Harper; Mercy Hospital; Montgomery, Alabama; ROTC; Savannah, Georgia; Tuskegee University (formerly Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute); Tuskegee, Alabama; University of Boston; Veterans; White patients; World War I

Subjects: African Americans--Southern States.; Ku Klux Klan (1915- ); Tuskegee (Ala.); Tuskegee Institute.; Tuskegee University

00:49:26 - On Brown and Stevens, the formation of the Philadelphia Club, and more family history

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned that when the Depression, uh, struck, you lost $150 in the bank. Who did Mercy bank with?

Segment Synopsis: Minton discusses Andrew Stevens, a founder of the Philadelphia Club, Citizens Republican Club, and Brown and Stevens Bank. Hardy and Minton then talk about Stevens’ background and briefly mention E. C. Brown, who Minton did not know as well. Minton also talks about the Philadelphia Club, a social club started back in 1926, and briefly speaks more about his family history, describing what his father did for a living at Curtis Publishing as a printer.

Keywords: Andrew Stevens; Banks; Black judges; Broad and Lombard (Philadelphia, Pa.); Brown and Stevens Bank (-1925); Citizens; Citizens Republican Club; Curtis Publishing; Dr. Eugene Hinson; E. C. Brown; Fourth and Chestnut; Great Depression; Hinsonville; Institute of Colored Youth; Jobs; Lincoln University; Mercy Hospital; Millen; Nineteenth and South; Philadelphia Club; Southern; Southerners; Theophilus Minton; William Minton

Subjects: African American banks.; African American families; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Societies, etc.

00:55:59 - Philadelphia’s first Black magistrates

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Partial Transcript: You remember Amos Scott?

Segment Synopsis: Minton talks about Philadelphia’s Black magistrates, focusing on Amos Scott (the first) and Ed Henry (the second) and how they operated as both politicians and judges. Minton mentions how he remembers Ed Henry was a much better politician than Amos Scott. Minton also speaks about other Blacks who rose to power and won their jobs through political appointment, including Robert Forgy, Philadelphia’s first Black police sergeant.

Keywords: Account; Amos Scott (first black magistrate in Philadelphia, elected in 1921); Billy McCoach; Black doctors; Edward Henry (2nd black magistrate, appointed in 1925); G. Edward Dickerson; Henry Reynolds; Herbert E. Millen; Hobson R. Reynolds; Hobson Reynolds; Lawyers in Philadelphia, Pa.; Magistrates--Philadelphia; Reaves; Robert Forgy (first black police sergeant, appointed in 1929); Seventh and Greene; South Philadelphia; Waiters; Walnut Street (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Subjects: African American judges; African American leadership; African American politicians.; African Americans--Employment.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

01:00:11 - Philadelphia’s Black doctors in the early 1900s

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Partial Transcript: You see, there were thirteen doctors when I first started my history of medicine in Philadelphia, colored doctors, and I knew them all.

Segment Synopsis: Minton talks about the thirteen Black doctors in Philadelphia when he first started practicing medicine in 1929. This includes Robert Abel, a urologist from Hahnemann hospital who delivered Minton's wife. Minton also speaks on the outstanding Black doctors in the city such as his uncle. Afterwards, Minton starts to talk about Dr. John P. Turner, the first Black doctor appointed at a General Hospital.

Keywords: Black doctors; Canada; Dr. John P. Turner; Dr. Nathan Francis Mossell; Dr. Robert Abel; E. C. Howard; General Hospital (Philadelphia); Hahnemann Hospital; Harvard; Integration; McGill; Medicine; Mercy Hospital; Mercy-Douglass Hospital; Surgeons

Subjects: African American physicians; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

GPS: Hahnemann Hospital Philadelphia, PA
Map Coordinates: 39.957706, -75.163931
01:02:07 - The first African American doctor appointed to Philadelphia General Hospital

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Partial Transcript: --to be the first Black appointed to General Hospital.

Segment Synopsis: In the early 1900s, Blacks physicians were not able to practice in Philadelphia. Dr. John P. Turner was the first surgeon appointed to General Hospital to practice, and was the first Black school doctor in Philadelphia. Minton followed Turner early in his career, as he took a job as a school doctor. Minton describes Turner as a "plugger," a very determined man. Turner wrote a book about ringworm, which was prevalent during the times. This book faced criticism but Minton defended his colleague, as Black doctors stood together as one. Turner was involved in a lot of areas of medicine and gained support from other Black doctors at the time.

Keywords: Black doctors; Dr. John P Turner; General Hospital; Plugger; Political connections

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Segregation; Discrimination in employment.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Philadelphia General Hospital

GPS: Original location of General Hospital
Map Coordinates: 39.948879, -75.192690
01:06:03 - On a Black doctor passing as white

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Partial Transcript: Now some of the, uh, outstanding doctors, I don't know whether you ever heard of Dr. Frank Boston?

Segment Synopsis: African Americans were categorized by the way in which they looked instead of their skill level. Physical appearance and color categorized the Blacks and the whites. Dr. Frank Boston had African American features but was seen as white since he had blue eyes. No one asked so he did not tell them his race, which allowed him to be portrayed as white. Dr. Frank Boston worked as chief surgeon at Mercy Hospital. He was outstanding as he taught many people surgery. Boston was able to show his skill level since he was seen as white instead of Black.

Keywords: Black doctors; Chief surgeons; Dr. Frank Boston; Mercy Hospital; White

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Segregation; Discrimination in employment.; Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.); Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

GPS: Mercy Hospital
Map Coordinates: 39.951430, -75.229617
01:08:47 - White men without medical training

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Partial Transcript: I didn't know any such--

Segment Synopsis: White doctors of the time were known to practice medicine without training and were called "pseudo-doctors." Minton did not know of any Black men that practiced without training, which shows how color determined credibility over skills in the medical field. The Armstrong Association would direct patients to get the proper care they needed. Minton soon became part of the Armstrong Association to better help people. He recalls that the belief that "Mr Charlie" (white men) could do it better, was one of the biggest problems that Black doctors confronted. The "white is always right" was a common theme from people of the South. People were given the freedom in the North, but did not choose to be free as they still flocked to the white doctors. Black doctors were going above and beyond to get the proper training, but people still felt that the white was always right.

Keywords: "Voodoo doctors"; Pseudo-doctors; University of Pennsylvania Medical School

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Segregation; Discrimination in employment.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Racism

01:12:47 - Resistance for a Black doctor

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Partial Transcript: Yes, they were still brainwashed. I told you, I practiced on the Main Line. And there was one colored family that I never will forget, because she said she wouldn't have a colored doctor, yet her son was studying medicine at Howard University.

Segment Synopsis: After African Americans were welcomed to practice medicine alongside white doctors in the early 1900s, they were not welcomed by their patients. Black patients still wanted to be see a white doctor, even though they may not have had as much training as a Black doctor. As a member of the NAACP, Minton fought for equality in medicine with a number of his colleagues. They got the Mayor, J. Hampton Moore in the early 1900s, to choose between the top doctors from Meharry and Howard to help put this problem to rest. Maurice Clifford, an African American, was finally accepted into hospitals which set the groundwork for Black doctors.

Keywords: Howard University; Main Line (Philadelphia, Pa.); Maurice Clifford; Mayor Hampton Moore; Meharry Medical College

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Segregation; Discrimination in employment.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Racism

01:17:13 - On the anti-color Bryn Mawr Hospital

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Partial Transcript: They tell me that, "Well, no colored has ever applied." Well, I never applied to Bryn Mawr Hospital either.

Segment Synopsis: Black medical students did not apply to Bryn Mawr Hospital because they were discriminatory there, and did not accept any Blacks. The hospital never received appropriations from the state, instead it depended on donors. The highest contributor had a say in how the hospital was run. An anonymous woman made a $20,000 contribution. She made a stipulation that a "colored graduate" from the University of Pennsylvania would need to be accepted. If the hospital did not follow through, she was going to cancel her contribution, and send her money elsewhere. In fear of running out of money, the hospital followed her order and accepted a Black doctor into the hospital.

Keywords: Doctors; Radnor; Segregation in Philadelphia; University of Pennsylvania; University of Pennsylvania Medical School

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Segregation; Bryn Mawr Hospital; Discrimination in employment.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Racism

GPS: Bryn Mawr Hospital
Map Coordinates: 40.019122, -75.321111
01:24:38 - Lack of trust for African-American physicians and hospitals

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Partial Transcript: They used to refer to Mercy Hospital as a butcher shop, you know? That you go there to die, as if no other hospital had a morgue.

Segment Synopsis: Minton talks about Mercy Hospital's reputation among some Philadelphians as the butcher shop - somewhere you go to die, and how some Blacks preferred to be treated in the basement of a white hospital than in a private room at Mercy. Racism left the public thinking that whites were always better in medicine. It was a struggle for the Black physicians to win acceptance from other Blacks, let alone whites. Mercy, did, however have white benefactors, including Rosenwald and Mrs. Grace who gave contributions in support of multi-race hospitals.

Keywords: AME bishops; Black doctors; Jefferson Hopsital; Mercy Hospital; Mrs. Grace; Rosenwald

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Segregation; Discrimination in employment.; Mercy-Douglass Hospital (Philadelphia, Pa.); Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Racism

GPS: General location for the Main Line in Philadelphia
Map Coordinates: 39.951430, -75.229617
01:30:51 - Formation of the African American Medical Association

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Partial Transcript: Well the biggest national one was the National Medical. And of course, that was founded in ninet--eight--1898.

Segment Synopsis: Minton shares how Black doctors formed the National Medical Association because of their exclusion from white professional medical associations, and how the American Medical Association called for membership in local societies that would accept all doctors, regardless of race. Black doctors felt they would not be welcomed at monthly meetings, but Minton attended almost every one, and found that the relationship between the Black and white doctors was cordial. Most staffing decisions were based off the nurses. People did not want a Black man looking over a White nurse, which caused for certain placements of white doctors over Black doctors. If the nurse was Black, they allowed for a Black doctor.

Keywords: American Medical Association; National Medical Association

Subjects: African American physicians; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Societies, etc.; Discrimination in employment.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race discrimination.; Racism