Museum and Library Closures

The New-York Historical Society will be closed on September 23, and select spaces will be closed September 24. For details, please visit our calendar.

< back

James McCune Smith (1813-1865)

James McCune Smith, later a brilliant doctor and abolitionist, was a student at the African Free School in 1824. The son of a black woman and an unknown white man, Smith was almost certainly the star of his class. Later, he studied medicine in Glasgow, Scotland, after he was denied admission to two medical schools in the United States because of his race.

He was the first university-trained black doctor in America. The “nation” side of the pavilion explores the world of medicine in Smith’s time, when treatments included the use of bleeding bowls and leeches to rid patients of “bad blood,” as well as the successful use of a vaccine against smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases known.

Creative: Tronvig Group