Desegregating the Washington University Medical Center, in their own words

While an administrative error led administrators to quietly declare Washington University School of Medicine desegregated in 1947, efforts for truly active integration across the school and its associate hospitals came only after decades of intentional action and advocacy from many dedicated individuals and groups.

Robert Lee, Assistant Dean for Minority Students, conversing with four recently accepted Black students, 1988.
Robert Lee, Assistant Dean for Minority Students, conversing with four recently accepted Black students, 1988.

The Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project highlights the stories of students and faculty, doctors and nurses, advocates and administrators who lived and worked under segregationist and other racist policies and whose efforts slowly pushed the Medical Center to desegregate. Their oral history interview transcripts and audio recordings are now freely available online through Digital Commons@Becker and the Becker Archives Database.

First Year Class 1968-1969
Washington University School of Medicine first year class, 1968-1969. Julian Mosley, Patrick Obiaya, and Karen Scruggs were the third, fourth, and fifth Black students to enter WUSM.

In 1990, Edwin McCleskey, PhD, and medical students James Carter (MD ’93) and William Geideman (MD ’93), conducted interviews with 13 individuals who played a role in the desegregation of the School of Medicine and its associated hospitals. The interviewees include Ella Brown RN, MSN, the Director of Nursing Services at Homer G. Phillips Hospital; Robert Lee, PhD, the first Assistant Dean for Minority Students at the School of Medicine; Julian Mosley, MD, the second Black graduate of the School of Medicine; and Howard Phillip Venable, MD, chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Homer G. Phillips, one of the first Black physicians on the clinical faculty at Washington University and a vocal advocate for civil rights.

They and other interviewees discuss the segregated facilities at Barnes Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital prior to integration; the events and decisions leading to desegregation in the medical school and hospitals; recruitment, admissions, and retention of minority students at the School of Medicine; Homer G. Phillips Hospital, its role in the Black community, and its closure; the state health care for the Black community in St. Louis; and the desegregation of local and national medical societies.

Hear the interview with Julian C. Mosley, Jr. below or visit Digital Commons@Becker or the Becker Archives Database to view the full collection.

Julian C. Mosley, Jr. oral history audio recording