Special Exhibit
Home Hospitals Special Exhibit

Hospital Discrimination in Detroit in the 1950s
Special Exhibit originally created in 1995
by Renee McKinney and Nicholas Scalera

This exhibit was originally created in 1995 by Renee McKinney and Nicholas Scalera for the University of Michigan Historical Center for the Health Sciences and funded by the University of Michigan Hospitals. A graphics update was completed in 6/96.  Special Exhibit

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Detroit Urban League health clinic

Detroit Urban League Health Clinic

ca.1945

[Photograph courtesy of
the Bentley Historical Library
University of Michigan]


Racial Segregation of Hospital Bed Assignments

Until the mid-1960s, most of Detroit's white-owned hospitals practiced segregation by assigning patients into separate wards based on race. This diagram illustrates the segregated fourth floor ward of Detroit Memorial Hospital in 1959. The diagram was produced by the Detroit Urban League and the NAACP and sent to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to protest the planned distribution of Federal grant funds to a hospital engaging in discriminatory practices. DIAGRAM OF FOURTH FLOOR OF DETROIT MEMORIAL HOSPITAL WHERE NEGRO PATIENTS ARE CONCENTRATED
Diagram of 4th floor of Detroit Memorial Hospital
Detroit Urban League Collection, Box 43, Hospital and Medical Center Studies, 1959, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. File size of full image = 45K

 

The official response to this protest, delivered by Assistant Surgeon General Jack C. Haldeman, revealed the institutional barriers Detroit African Americans faced at this time in their fight against discriminatory hospital practices. In his letter, Haldeman refutes the NAACP's protest on the grounds that there was no evidence presented that the hospital denied admission to any patients based on race, and that the Federal government could not interfere with the internal administration (i.e. assigning of beds) of the hospital. Page 1 of Letter

Page 2 of Letter

Detroit Urban League Collection, Box 43, Hospital and Medical Center Studies, 1959, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. File size of full-sized images = 100K; 40K

 

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African American Activism Against Hospital Discrimination

Throughout the period from the Great Migration of the World War I era to the 1960s, Detroit-area African Americans actively challenged the discriminatory practices and segregationist attitudes that characterized the Detroit medical establishment. Although organizations such as the Detroit Urban League and the NAACP generally led the way in focusing the African American community's protests against discrimination in health care, spontaneous, grass-roots efforts by individuals and groups of African Americans were widespread and frequent. One example of such an effort is displayed in this 1952 report written by the Women's Committee to End Discrimination in the Medical Services. Letter Introducing Report
A REPORT ON MEDICAL DISCRIMINATION IN THE CITY OF DETROIT

1952 report written by the Women's Committee to End Discrimination in the Medical Services.

Report on Medical Discrimination
Detroit Urban League Collection, Box 42, Hospital and Medical Center Studies, 1951-1952, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. File size of full-sized images = 80K; 350K.

 

THE NEGRO PATIENT'S LIFE IS JEOPARDIZED BY DISCRIMINATION.

This report, produced through research of public records and interviews, drew a connection between discrimination in hospital services and the proportionately higher mortality rates of Detroit African Americans due to tuberculosis and other public health diseases when compared with the total population. This document is a chart listing the the number of beds allocated for Negroes at various Detroit-area hospitals and the number of black physicians employed by each.

The Negro Patient's Life is Jeopardized
HOSPITAL DISCRIMINATION IN DETROIT REFLECTED IN HIGHER DEATH RATE AMONG NEGROES
This document presents statistics on the death rates of Detroit African Americans versus white Detroit residents. It includes the first of several case histories contained in the report. These case histories describe examples of segregationist policies practiced by Detroit hospitals.
Statistics on Death Rates
Detroit Urban League Collection, Box 42, Hospital and Medical Center Studies, 1951-1952, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. File size of full-sized images = 200K; 300K
 

Kellogg African American Health Care Project
Sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Michigan

Copyright , Kellogg African American Health Care Project, 2000.
Text and images may not be used without the permission of the Kellogg African American Health Care Project.
For information regarding reproduction permission please write: Kellogg African American Health Care Project, University of Michigan, 300 N. Ingalls Building, RM 3D019, Box 0489, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48109-0489; or phone (734) 647-6918.