ACS Releases New Book Exploring the History of Black Surgeons and Surgery in America

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has released a new publication, Black Surgeons and Surgery in America, which traces the history of Black surgeons and surgery in the US from the Antebellum period to modern times.

Black Surgeons and Surgery in America follows the history of Black surgeons in America who practiced their craft while helping to advance the cause of racial equity. The book has seven distinct sections that identify broad themes of American history, from slavery and Jim Crow to affirmative action and contemporary healthcare.

Notably, Black Surgeons and Surgery in America highlights figures overlooked in American medical history who contributed to major advancements in healthcare. They include James McCune Smith, MD, the first Black medical school graduate, considered by Frederick Douglass to be the most important Black influence on his life; Martin Robinson Delany, MD, a physician trained by an abolitionist after his chances at a formal medical education were derailed and who went on to become the first proponent of Black nationalism; and Matilda Arabella Evans, MD, the first Black woman licensed to practice medicine in South Carolina who, when barred from admitting patients to hospitals, opened an inpatient facility in her home.

“The book explains the background of health disparities in America, helps to explain the problems that we have with affirmative action, and gives a historical perspective of the inequities we face today,” said Don K. Nakayama, MD, MBA, FACS, clinical professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; ACS Treasurer; and former Chair, ACS Surgical History Group. “Traced from start to finish, it’s the story of America.”

Dr. Nakayama served as editor of Black Surgeons and Surgery in America. Its principal contributors were Peter J. Kernahan, MD, PhD, FACS, and Edward E. Cornwell, MD, FACS, FCCM, FCWAS. An additional 26 contributors provided content for the 39 chapters of the book.

“Beginning with slavery and continuing to the present day, there are indisputable racial inequities in health care,” said ACS Executive Director Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS. “This book not only describes how Black surgeons faced the daunting challenges during each era of American history with heroism—sometimes at the cost of their lives—but it also serves as a call to action for surgeons today who seek to advance equity and justice in healthcare.”

Black Surgeons and Surgery in America is available for free download; hardcopies can be purchased for $25 each from the ACS online store or use the QR code for more information.

Tagged as: , ,

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons
633 N. Saint Clair St.
Chicago, IL 60611


Download the Bulletin App

Apple Store
Get it on Google Play
Amazon store