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The Door That Opened Wide

W. Montague Cobb, MD, PhD
JAMA. 1987;257(2):227. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390020093034.
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"THE Door That Stayed Closed" is the title of the second chapter of a small book that I wrote entitled The First Negro Medical Society, published in 1939.1 The chapter describes the unsuccessful efforts of black physicians, with the aid of their white supporters, to gain admission to the Medical Society of the District of Columbia (MSDC) from 1869 to 1872.2 After the stormy controversy of this period, the door to membership remained closed to black physicians for 83 years, until 1952.3

During this time, the door was tried three times. The first attempt to gain membership occurred during what might be called the normal course of events. Howard University was chartered by Congress in 1867 and the medical school opened its doors the following year with eight students and five teachers. One teacher was black, Dr Alexander Thomas Augusta, who had been breveted a lieutenant colonel,


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