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History of Medicine |

Hospitals and Civil Rights, 1945-1963: The Case of Simkins v Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital

P. Preston Reynolds, MD, PhD
[+] Article and Author Information

From The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For the current author address, see end of text. Note: Research for this article won the Milton W. Hamolsky Faculty award from the Society of General Internal Medicine in May 1996 and a 3-year Charles E. Culpeper Foundation award for research in the humanities. Acknowledgments: The author thanks Drs. John D. Stobo, Edward Holmes, and Gert Brieger for providing dedicated research time and facilities. This article is dedicated to the late Samuel Preston Martin. Grant Support: In part by grant 13928 (preliminary research, 1988 to 1989) and continued support (1992 to 1996) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Requests for Reprints: P. Preston Reynolds, MD, PhD, 6 Concord Place, Havre de Grace, MD 21078.


Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1997;126(11):898-906. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-126-11-199706010-00009
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In the 1960s, the legacy of discrimination against black persons still existed in all areas of medicine.This historical analysis investigates the strategies that were used by lawyers alongside physicians, dentists, and patients in elevating health care for black persons. Primary resources include oral histories, government documents, hospital records, archival and personal manuscripts, and professional and hospital periodicals.

After World War II, leaders in the black community were determined to improve health care for black persons by ending discrimination in hospital policies and practices.Leaders of professional organizations developed a collaborative strategy that involved the court system, federal legislation, and research and education of the public and health professionals to integrate the hospital system rather than to expand the existing separate-but-equal system. Efforts culminated in the case of Simkins v Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital; this case became the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and led to the elimination of segregated health care. Three months after the case, President Johnson ratified the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included Title VI, thus extending the policy of equality to all federal programs. Laying a foundation for universal access to health care in the United States depended on a victory in the courts, in national health legislation, and in public opinion. All were achieved through strategic efforts to amass widespread support for the elimination of discrimination in medicine.

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