DAILY DOSE OF HISTORY: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams – Surgeon

The Third

Daniel Hale Williams III was born January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. He was one of several children born to Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II. Williams II inherited a barber shop and worked with the Equal Rights League during the Reconstruction era. After Williams II died, Williams III was sent to live with friends in Baltimore, Maryland.

Apprenticeships

While living in Baltimore, 10-year-old Williams began an apprenticeship with a shoemaker. He grew to dislike the work and ultimately returned to his family, now living in Illinois. He learned how to barber like his father before him. He then decided that he wanted to pursue an education. He entered another apprenticeship with Dr. Henry Palmer, an accomplished surgeon.

Practice

In addition to his apprenticeship, Williams received an education from Chicago Medical College. He then established his own practice on Chicago’s South Side while teaching anatomy at Chicago Medical College. He also became the first Black physician to work for Chicago’s street railway system.

Provident Hospital and Training School

Williams noticed that Black people were often denied admittance into hospitals and Black doctors were often refused staff positions. To counter the disparities founded upon racism, he established the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, in May 1891. This was the first hospital to have a racially integrated staff.
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Open-Heart Surgery

In 1893, James Cornish, the victim of a stabbing, was rushed into Provident Hospital. Williams was able to properly suture Cornish’s pericardium without modern surgical procedures or blood transfusions. Williams became one of the first people to successfully perform open-heart surgery. Cornish lived for many years following his surgery.

Freedman’s Hospital

In 1894, Williams accepted a position at the Freedman’s Hospital, providing care for formerly enslaved Black people in the U.S. While the Freedman’s Hospital had fallen to despair, he worked diligently to improve it, implementing improved surgical procedures and launching an ambulance service.
In 1895, Williams co-founded the National Medical Association, which was an organization for professional Black practitioners. It was founded as an alternative to the American Medical Association, which denied membership to Black practitioners.

Later Years

After marrying Alice Johnson in 1898, Williams and his wife moved to Chicago. There, he returned to Provident. Shortly thereafter, he began working at Cook County Hospital and then St. Luke’s, a medical institution with seemingly limitless resources. He suffered a massive stroke in 1926. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams died August 4, 1931, in Idlewild, Michigan. He was 75 years old.
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**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer (Nikodemus Mwandishi) or We Buy Black. Thank you.**
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