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Writers Against Racism: The Untold Story – Black Hospitals in America

A few months back, my dear cousin, Dr. Monica Benjamin Hayes,  introduced me to her colleague, Nathaniel Wesley Jr., as she knew his research on black hospitals in Amercia would intrigue me.  Nat agreed to this interview.

A.B. What made you decide to go ahead and write this very important book?

In 1977 I was asked by the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) to create a national directory of “negro” hospitals in the United States.  I   was a member of NAHSE and was encouraged by several of my mentors to conduct research and study of Black hospitals.  When I became a faculty member at Howard University Hospital I published a number of special reports and monograms on the contributions of Black hospitals to our healthcare delivery system.  I decided to write the book after the following realizations in the first decade of the 21st century:

The accumulation of more than 30 years of historic files, records, articles and scholarly documents on Black hospitals of the 20th century.

Nathaniel Wesley Jr.

My first employment in the health field was in a Black hospital.

The only time I was fired as a health professional was by a Black hospital

I had presented hundreds of lectures and presentation on Black hospital History

Given the increased interest in Black history and encourage of my professional colleagues and personal friends, I decided that I should share my knowledge with others.

A.B. How has it been received (reactions)?

The book has been well received as a subject and topic of interest, information and intrigue.

However, it has not produced the sales as desired.   Most individuals are not willing to pay the price of the book as a historic document.  Given that it is a referenced document that is of value to researchers, students, and educators, my target market has become libraries, research centers, historical organizations and museums.

A.B. What were some astounding revelations you found through your research?

This list of responses could go on for pages. However, let me list a few at this time:

A significant number of Black hospitals were founded to provide opportunities for clinical training for Black nursing students.  Segregated White hospitals did not allow Black nursing students to receive clinical training at those hospitals.

In some locations, Black physicians were not given admitting privileges to Black hospitals.  Only White physicians could admit consistent with the policies of the local medical society.  Black physicians could then provide medical care to those patients.

Black hospitals were true “community” hospitals.  Individuals and institutions throughout a community would support the hospital socially, politically, economically and financially.

In many communities, White physicians played a key role in securing critical medical resources from White hospitals for the care of Black patients.  These physicians were also creative enough to provide surgical and medical services when such services were “off limits” at the White hospital.

A.B. Is anyone to blame for the lack of Black hospitals and ultimately, do we need them?  My point is, historically there have been Black hospitals but in today’s world, is that a realistic expectation?

The “ racial desegregation” of America resulted in the transition of my institutions in the Black community.  Who do we “blame” for the loss of drive-in movies? A difficult question to answer.  No single person or circumstance is to be blamed. Do we need Black hospitals?  Probably not.  However, we do need a healthcare delivery system that provides access to needed medical care for all citizens. The disparities in health status between racial and ethnic groups let us know that we do not have a fair and equitable system.  We need hospital facilities that will provide educational and clinical training for minority students in the health and allied health professions.  Hospitals should provide equality of access and opportunity for all segments of our population.  We do not need Black hospitals to accomplish these principals.

 A.B. What do you hope you readers will take away after they read your book?

Hopefully, readers will appreciate the history and contributions of Black hospitals in America.

The reader will take away an understanding of the impact of the loss of these institutions.  I summarize the losses as: loss of access to medical services; loss of employment in the hospital industry; loss of education and training sites for students; and loss of economic opportunities for small businesses.

Nathaniel Wesley, Jr. is celebrated as a successful entrepreneur, author, historian, speaker, and expert in health care services. He has more than 35 years of experience as a health management practitioner, consultant, planner and educator. As president of NRW Associates, a health management consultancy and publisher in Tallahassee, Florida, Wesley provides counsel for professional development in the health care industry. Wesley travels the country speaking at university conferences, association meetings, executive retreats, academic forums, and health related events. He has been showcased in Ebony and other publications as a valuable historian of Black hospitals. Wesley is available for speaking engagements and educational lecture series presentations. He can be reached at 850.942.7288, or by emailing

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  1. Monica Hayes says:

    Nat’s book is compelling reading. There is so much most of us don’t learn in history/books/classrooms, etc. We rob our children of an opportunity to learn that our contributions include more than just that we were slaves hundreds of years ago. I agree that those hospitals provided a pipeline for Black students to become Black professionals. I hope your readers, especially librarians and teachers will look into Nat’s work and the works of others to ensure that the history our children are expsoed to is complete and reflects the contributions of all involved in the compelling American story.
    Thanks for the time with Nat.


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