In a perfect world of medical science, hospitals would be value-neutral medical establishments, healing and treating all people in need equally. Hospitals, in addition to being medical facilities, are social institutions that reflect and reinforce the beliefs and values of the wider society. Making a Place for Ourselves examines an important but not widely chronicled event at the intersection of African-American history and American medical history - the black hospital movement. A practical response to the racial realities of American life, the movement was a "self-help" endeavor - immediate improvement of separate medical institutions insured the advancement and health of African Americans until the slow process of integration could occur.
Recognizing that their careers depended on access to hospitals, black physicians associated with the two leading black medical societies, the National Medical Association (NMA) and the National Hospital Association (NHA), initiated the movement in the 1920s in order to upgrade the medical and education programs at black hospitals. Black physicians "made a place for themselves" within the profession of medicine by improving the status and training of black hospitals between 1920 and 1945, a time when few black physicians had options beyond the separate but equal black medical world.
Vanessa Northington Gamble examines the activities of these physicians and those of black community organizations, local and federal governments, and major health care organizations. She focuses on three case studies (Cleveland, Chicago, and Tuskegee) to demonstrate how the black hospital movement reflected the goals, needs, and divisions within the African-American community - and the state of American race relations. Exploring ideological tensions within the black community over the existence of black hospitals, Gamble shows that black hospitals were essential for the professional lives of black physicians before the emergence of the civil rights movement. More broadly, Making a Place for Ourselves clearly and powerfully documents how issues of race and racism have affected the development of the American hospital system.
"Masterful....A major work on African-American health history [and] and an important work on the history of racial formation and racial politics in twentieth-century America."--Bulletin of the History of Medicine
"Effectively blending a general overview with studies of specific hospitals, Gamble conveys the strengths, weaknesses, and dilemmas of the black hospital movement. In the process she offers readers understanding of civil rights, the politics of race, medical education, and the divisions within the black community."--CHOICE
"...Gamble's focus on the role of race and racism in the specific context of the black hospital movement provides valuable insight into an aspect of American medical history not fully explored in the comprehensive work of her mentors."--The Alabama Review
"Gamble's work excels in outlining the interplay of forces within the African American community to secure access to a hospital that would serve their needs."--Wisconsin Magazine of History
"Many readers of American History will enjoy this book..."--Illinois Historical Journal
"Gamble's account of the black hospital movement is more than an exercise in compensatory history....Gamble sensitively engages the dilemmas confronting black physicians trying to protect their beleaguered professional positions against the backdrop of the evolving hospital and the transformation of American medicine."--American Historical Review
"This book is an important contribution to the history of health care in America."--Pennsylvania History
"Vanessa Northington Gamble has contributed significantly to our knowledge of an important chapter in the history of American medicine...In this book we have an incisive, illuminating treatment of the interrelated themes of the 20th century challenge to hospital racial segregation and the needs of African Americans to survive and safeguard their health within an either de jure or de facto segregated national healthcare system."--Ohio
"This richly textured book is the best study we have on race, racism, and medical institutions in early-twentieth-century America....[It] brings medical historians powerful insight into the ways racism has shaped the culture of American medicine..."--The Journal of American History