Abstract

Abraham Flexner's 1910 exposé on medical education recommended that only two of the seven extant medical schools for blacks be preserved and that they should train their students to “serve their people humbly” as “sanitarians.” Addressing charges of racism, this article traces the roots of the recommendation that blacks serve a limited professional role to the schools themselves and presents evidence that, in endorsing the continuance of Howard's and Meharry's medical programs, Flexner exhibited greater leniency than he had toward comparable schools for white students. Whether his recommendations to eliminate the other five schools were key factors in their extinction is addressed here by examining 1901–30 enrollment patterns. Those patterns suggest that actions of the American Medical Association and state licensing boards, combined with the broader problem of limited premedical educational opportunities for blacks, were more consequential than was the Flexner report both for the extinction of the schools and for the curtailed production of black doctors.

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