Black History Month – James Derham

The Intellectual Revolution presents…

James Derham was the first Black person to receive a certificate to practice medicine in the US. He won his freedom and set up his own practice in New Orleans. He was the first African-American to formally practice medicine in the United States though he never received an M.D. degree. Derham was born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was owned by several doctors and by working as a nurse/medical assistant, he saved enough money to purchase his freedom by 1783. In the same year he ended up in New Orleans with a Scottish physician, to perform medical services. He opened his own medical practice, and by age 26 his annual earnings exceeded $3,000. He was a popular and distinguished doctor in New Orleans, at least in part for his knowledge of English, French, and Spanish. In 1789, Durham saved more yellow fever victims in New Orleans than any other physician in colonial Philadelphia.

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