Oct 10, 2021

Motivation for the Academic Year!

There are various methods in which the truth can come into fruition: literature, music, art, and poetry to name a few outputs. Recent events such as the covid-19 pandemic have seen this stretched to the scientific arena, where specifically medicine and public health has been placed in the forefront of contemporary society and the importance of spreading news and truth. James McCune Smith, the first African American doctor embodies this notion through his advocacy towards education and how it benefits the individual and society.

“We are destined to spread over our common country the holy influences of principles, the glorious light of Truth” 

Struggle does not discriminate. This is presented not only through the global reaction towards the pandemic, but also the personal effect of these unprecedented events, through our motivation and retrospection of our inner and outer world.

There may be times within the late hours of the day within the library when your motivation is low, spirits down, unable to contemplate the steps forward with the degree you have taken. However, perseverance even throughout, or, especially within these times is essential and is critically demonstrated by James McCune Smith, who fought through the cultural issues of his time to accomplish himself and the health field towards racial representation and medical equality.

James McCune Smith graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1837 and became the first African American to receive a medical degree. During his studies in Glasgow, Smith obtained three university degrees – a bachelor’s degree (1835), a master’s degree (1836), and his medical doctorate (1837). In addition to practicing as a doctor, Smith was a public intellectual: he contributed articles to medical journals, participated in learned societies, and wrote numerous essays and articles drawing from his medical and statistical training.

During Black History month it is important to understand the ways that previous generations fought against the ideology that percolated society during their times. The contribution of James McCune Smith used his training in medicine and statistics to refute common misconceptions about race, intelligence, medicine, and society in general. He has been most well-known for his leadership as an abolitionist: a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, with Frederick Douglass he helped start the National Council of Coloured People in 1853, the first permanent national organization for black people.

Though Smith faced obstacles and struggles, he was described as an “exceptionally bright student", who later went on to become successful and worked with others among the abolitionist cause.

Smith recognised the importance of education: "I have striven to obtain an education, at every sacrifice and every hazard, and to apply such education to the good of our common country."

One McCune Smith repudiates Jefferson’s remarks that “blacks are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind”. Thus, of his many contributions to the field of physiology, exposing bias, fraudulent data, and noting that “race” is not a biological reality are McCune Smith’s greatest achievements. 

Much of this recognition has recently emerged; The University of Glasgow, Smith’s alma mater, has named its new Learning Hub building the James McCune Smith Building. It will open to students early in 2021. The University has also established a scholarship and an annual lecture named after him, to honour him worldwide.

Douglass called Smith "the single most important influence on his life. For more information about James McCune Smith, you can find ‘’The works of James McCune Smith’’ by himself in most online stores.



Angeli Labor

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