Leon H. Washington Jr., left, publisher of the Sentinel, marches in a picket line with a sign that says “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” in a photo published Jan. 2, 1947.
Jan. 2, 1947: At its convention in Cleveland, the American College of Surgeons admits a delegation of 10 black surgeons — none of them from Los Angeles.
“The initiation of the 10 fellows of the college brought to a close one of the most effective campaigns ever waged to crack an existing color bar in medicine,” the Sentinel said.
Founded in 1913 to promote high standards in surgical care, the association had one black charter member, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, FACS, of St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, who died in 1931. Dr. Louis T. Wright, director of surgery at Harlem Hospital of New York, became the next African American member in 1934.
Note: For those who just tuned in, we’re going to reboot the concept of the 1947project (founded by Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak) by going day by day through 1947 – but using the Los Angeles Sentinel, an African American weekly, rather than the very white and very conservative Los Angeles Times. We promise you an extremely different view of Los Angeles.
(The historic Los Angeles Sentinel is available online from the Los Angeles Public Library. We encourage anyone with a library card to delve into the back issues and explore the history of black L.A.
The association was criticized by Dr. G. Thorne, visiting surgeon of Harlem and Sydenham hospitals in New York, for its lack of black members. An investigating committee found that black surgeons’ admission applications had been ignored for many years. In 1946, the association admitted a gynecologist at Sydenham and Harlem hospitals in New York and two surgeons from Provident hospital in Chicago.
The 10 new members of the association were from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. In 1948, the association admitted 12 more African American surgeons at its convention at Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles, though none of them was local.
Research in the Sentinel shows that in 1952, Dr. Leroy R. Weekes, of Queen of the Angels Hospital, became the first Los Angeles surgeon admitted to the group. Weekes was also the first black appointed to the staff of Cedars of Lebanon Hospital (which later merged with Mt. Sinai to form Cedars-Sinai Medical Center) and was president of the Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Assn. of Southern California. When he died in 1994, the Sentinel said: “Leroy Randolph Weekes has touched many lives, as a physician, as a human being and as a black man. He will be sorely missed by one and all.”