"Here at Houston Negro Hospital, our beginning is humble, but through hard work will bear fruit for our race." With those words, Dr. J. Edward Perry began his tenure as director of Houston's first non-profit hospital for African American doctors and patients in 1947. It is an important historical story that is included in a new online exhibit created by the University of Houston Center for Public History (CPH) and the Houston Medical Forum titled, "To Bear Fruit for Our Race: A History of African American Physicians in Houston." The site, http://www.history.uh.edu/cph/tobearfruit/index.asp, will be launched at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16 at a reception at The Health Museum, 1515 Hermann Drive.
"This online exhibit focuses on a small, but important, group of Houstonians whose contributions have been overlooked," said Kathleen Brosnan, associate professor of history and associate director of CPH. "Telling their stories is part of our larger mission of telling Houston's history. We are particularly grateful for the support of The Health Museum in launching this site."
The Web site, made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, covers 20th century history in Houston. It features narratives, interviews and photos of medical pioneers such as Dr. Franklin Robey, who was born a slave but became one of the first African American doctors in Houston; Dr. Edith Irby Jones, who broke the color barrier at the University of Arkansas medical school and became the first African American women in residency at Baylor College of Medicine; and Dr. Bernard Harris, physician, astronaut and UH alum. Visitors also can find information and resources on institutions such as the Houston Medical Forum, whose members championed civil rights issues in the 1960s, and the Harris County Medical Society, which just elected its first African American president in 2002. "Every child should have the opportunity to learn from the past in order to inspire and direct them toward achieving their goals," said Dr. JoAnne Rogers, president of the Houston Medical Forum. "This unique and historical exhibit illustrates the realistic journey of African American physicians in hopes of promoting the pursuit of personal excellence, community service and unity among our youth."
The CPH recruited current and former teachers from the Houston Independent School District to create lessons plans for middle and high school curricula. For example, students studying science can read about genetics and sickle cell anemia or listen to Dr. John Clemmons explain what a gastroenterologist does. High school students can learn about the intersection of civil rights and women's rights through the experiences of Jones and native Houstonians such as Dr. Natalie Carroll and Dr. Eula Faye Perry. Consultants were careful to construct lesson plans that not only were appropriate for Texas history, science, social science and Black History Month discussions, but also compatible with lessons that prepare students for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.
"We wanted this to be a useful tool for students and teachers," Brosnan said. "Our consultants come from Texas school districts, so they are keenly aware of what teachers need."
Brosnan is quick to say that the online exhibit is a work in progress and that more resources and information will be added to add to the dialogue of Houston's history.
"We intend to continue to gather narratives and histories of these important Houston pioneers and make their inspiring stories available for the next generation of medical professionals," Brosnan said. For more information on the UH Center for Public History, visit www.class.uh.edu/hist/public_history/center_for_public_history.html.
For more information on the Houston Medical Forum, visit www.hmfonline.org/.
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