The Accomplishments and Legacy of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams an African-American Physician

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The death of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was a major loss for the United States. He was a renowned African-American physician who inspired the following generation by helping to de- segregate the medical world. With his ambition and a kind heart, his life work was dedicated to opening interracial hospitals in addition to training other African-Americans under his apprenticeship. On August 15, 1931, The Chicago Defender published an article dedicated to the memory of Dr. Williams, who had died due to his deteriorating health caused by a number of strokes in his later years. During this time period, the Great Depression had just begun and the country was still deeply segregated. There had been strides to improve healthcare for the African- American community by setting up their own hospitals but the American Medical Association still openly discriminated against minority physicians. The Chicago Defender published this piece in order to honor Dr. Dan Williams’ life as well as to inspire the younger, African- American generation to follow his lead. The whole article was comprised of nothing but praise from a few of Dr. Daniel Williams’ associates. The senator even went so far as to say that Dr. Dan Williams had been a blessing from God. By painting him in such a light, The Chicago Defender probably sought to inspire others through Dr. Dan Williams’ accomplishments as a black physician.

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Many different people contributed to the contents of the article, including Ferdinand L. Barnett, Ulysses Grant Dailey, and Carl G. Roberts. Barnett was an African-American male who had his own law practice in Chicago, Illinois. He also founded the weekly Conservator. Dailey was a black male surgeon who got his start as Dr. Dan Williams’ surgical assistant. He also spent much of his life in Chicago, Illinois although he would move around a lot for work. Roberts was also a black male surgeon based out of Chicago, Illinois. An interesting point in the article was made by Reverend Harold M. Kingsley. He states that Dr. Dan Williams’ career was an inspiration to younger men. His statement helps support the notion that this article was meant to inspire other African-Americans to enter the medical field because there was certainly a disparity between the number of minority physicians and white physicians. With that being said, the reverend states that Dr. Dan Williams is an inspiration to men in particular, even though Dr. Dan Williams also helped in the education of female nurses. His statement inadvertently showed his bias for the male gender, which shows how black women are even more undermined.

The three individuals previously highlighted all had similar things to say about Dr. Dan Williams. They unanimously agreed that he was an extremely hard-working man who had accomplished many great feats in his life. Dr. Carl G. Roberts even made the clear distinction that, “he was not merely a great Colored surgeon, but a great surgeon who happened to be Colored.” They also all went on to say that his great accomplishments and work ethic have helped cultivate and inspire the next generation of black physicians and nurses. One of the major accomplishments of his life was being a pioneer who worked to establish a place for the African- American community in the medical field. Although all said in different ways, each of the three men agreed that his efforts to de-segregate the medical community ultimately allowed more black people to enter it whereas before they had little opportunity.

The intent and content of the article is clear once three major aspects are considered. All three of the highlighted individuals were well respected, educated African-Americans with prestigious careers. By having these three men praise one of their deceased colleagues, it showed solidarity within the African-American community. Of course the contents of the article would say nothing but good things about Dr. Dan Williams. The Chicago Defender itself was an African-American run newspaper that encouraged civil rights and equality. This explains the style and tone of the article because in order to achieve equality within the medical field, there first has to be black students willing to go to school. By painting Dr. Dan Williams in such a positive light, it would then inspire others within the community. As an African-American, liberal newspaper, the intended audience was most certainly other African-Americans, which explains the perspective. This was a newspaper for African-Americans, run by African- Americans with the purpose of bettering the community.

Although Dr. Dan Williams’ career suffered later in life, his death would ultimately prove that his life accomplishments had not gone unnoticed. Within the article, several people came forth to honor Dr. Dan Williams’ memory by speaking about him as a person as well as his achievements. In particular, Senator Adelbert H. Roberts had stated that in the early 1890’s, Dr. Dan Williams was rated as Chicago’s most successful businessman. This speaks volumes of the advancement of African-Americans because beforehand, it had been hard to achieve financial success, let alone being rated as the number one in their field. This showed a turning point in the history of race and medicine because Dr. Dan Williams had proven that it could be done. A question I would have asked the editors was if Provident Hospital did anything to commemorate Dr. Dan Williams’ passing. The Provident Hospital was mentioned several times as one of his greatest achievements, so it would have made sense for it to have had some sort of special event in memory of his death. Even if the hospital had not done anything for him, Dr. Dan Williams’ legacy continues to live on to this day.

Bibliography

  • Beatty, William K. “Dailey, Ulysses Grant.” Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, second edition.
  • “Lincoln to Grant Degree upon Dr. Carl G. Roberts.” Chicago Defender, June 12, 1948, 6. Spatz,
  • David A. “Barnett, Ferdinand L.” Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present.
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The Accomplishments and Legacy of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams an African-American Physician. (2022, Dec 12). Retrieved February 4, 2023 , from
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