In May 1949, Herman A. Barnett III, a 23-year-old Black veteran, applied to The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston. His application occurred in the wake of Black student protests against the segregationist policies of The University of Texas and of judicial victories by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to eradicate racial inequalities in state-financed graduate and professional education. Barnett’s application prompted the state to fund a medical school at the Texas State University for Negroes, the only time a state ever attempted to thwart desegregation by financing a separate Black medical school. Barnett was clearly qualified for admission to UTMB, and if the school rejected him, he had agreed to be a plaintiff in an NAACP lawsuit. Legal action was not necessary, however. In August 1949 Barnett was accepted into UTMB, thereby becoming the second African American person to desegregate a Southern medical school. Barnett was technically admitted on a contract basis as a student at the Texas State University for Negroes in Houston and was to have transferred there later. The Black medical school was never built and Barnett graduated from UTMB in 1953. This review analyzes the role that Barnett and Black civil rights activists played in the history of medical education in the US and the dismantlement of racially exclusionary policies in medical schools.
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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.
Accepted for Publication: December 8, 2022.
Published Online: February 6, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2022.6700
Correction: This article was corrected on March 27, 2023, to fix an error in the Herman Barnett’s Legacy subsection of the text: Herman Barnett was the first Black president (vs the first Black member) of the Houston School Board.
Corresponding Author: Vanessa Northington Gamble, MD, PhD, Office of the Provost, George Washington University, 801 22nd St NW, Phillips Hall, Ste 412E, Washington, DC 20052 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Author Contributions: Dr Gamble had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
Additional Contributions: The author thanks Rachel Morse, MA, George Washington University; Molly Zepp, MD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; and Ellen Fitzpatrick, PhD, University of New Hampshire, for their generous assistance in the preparation of this article. No one received financial compensation for his or her contributions.
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