Black Women Who Slayed History: Rebecca Lee Crumpler

This Black History Month, we’re highlighting the black woman who helped make our world what it is today. Today, we honor Rebecca Lee Crumpler. 

When you think of black women who were notable during the Civil War, you might only know of Harriet Tubman who helped with the Underground Railroad.

However, most people forget about one important woman, who’s often overlooked because not much is known about her.

But we do know a few things about Rebecca Lee Crumpler. She was born in 1831 and became the first African American woman to earn an M.D. in the United States and become a physician. This honor was previously thought to have been achieved by another physician, Rebecca Cole.

READ MORE: Black Women Who Slayed History: Dorothy Vaughn 

Growing up, Rebecca Lee Crumpler went to one of the most prestigious private schools in Massachusetts. In fact, she was so brilliant, she was enrolled as a “special student.”

After getting out of school, she became a nurse and then eight years later applied to medical school. She was accepted and attended New England Female Medical College in Boston. When she graduated in 1864, she became the first African American woman to ever do so from the college or in the country.

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She practiced medicine in Boston for a little over a year, and then after the ending of the Civil War in 1865, she moved to Richmond, Virginia to help start taking care of the newly freed slaves in the South. Rebecca was working with missionaries and other black physicians to provide care that these free blacks had never had before.

READ MORE: What It’s Like to Be a Somalian Refugee in America 

Despite facing severe racism, she continued that work in Richmond for 15 years and then moved back to Boston. From the knowledge she gained in the field, Rebecca then published a book in 1883 called the “Book on Medical Discourses.”

Aside from defying the exclusive standards of Civil War era Boston, I’m sure that she is the origin of that theory that you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it.

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