Without Concealment, Without Compromise:
The Courageous Lives of Black Civil War Surgeons
By Jill L. Newmark
The first-ever comprehensive exploration of the lives and service of fourteen Black Civil War surgeons.
Coming May 2023
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Courtesy Oblate Sisters of Providence
Without Concealment, Without Compromise: The Courageous Lives of
Black Civil War Surgeons is a collective biography of fourteen Black
physicians who served as surgeons during the American Civil War. The book illuminates how their lives and successes challenged the
prescribed notions of race in America and the crucial role they played in the evolving definition of freedom and patriotism.
EXCERPT © Jill L. Newmark All Rights Reserved.
On a rainy morning in February 1864, Major Alexander T. Augusta, former surgeon-in-charge of Contraband Hospital in Washington, D.C., left his lodgings to head to a court martial hearing downtown where he was called to testify. As he stepped outside, he hailed the approaching streetcar. He attempted to enter the car, but was stopped by the conductor who told him that he would have to ride upfront with the driver because no Black passengers were permitted to ride inside. Augusta refused and moved forward to take a seat when the conductor physically ejected him from the car forcing him to walk to the hearing in the rain and delaying his arrival. Outraged, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner introduced legislation to desegregate streetcars in Washington which became law the following year.
Augusta’s position and status as a military officer and surgeon enabled him to be a catalyst for change through his public activism. His streetcar incident and Sumner’s response illustrate the challenges he and others faced in the fight for equality as well as the ability of an individual to be a force for social and political change. Historian Wilbert L. Jenkins noted that during the Civil War Black people were “central actors in their own lives and not…passive objects of a white-dominated society.” This is certainly true of Augusta and the thirteen other African American men who became physicians and took positions as medical officers in the U.S. Army. They were not complacent or satisfied with only achieving their goal to become physicians, but were committed to using their positions to advance the cause for freedom and equality.
The lives and accomplishments of fourteen Black men who served as surgeons during the American Civil War are explored in this book through the themes of justice and freedom, patriotism and pride, and the individual as a force for change. The accounts of these men go beyond the obvious merits of their military service to explore the people and influences that shaped their early lives and the impact they made on their communities, their race, and their country. Their ambitions were not deterred by society's prejudicial dictates, and their dignified acts of resistance and pioneering new pathways challenged the status quo. They became symbols of an emancipated future.
[end of excerpt]
Click on an image to access the article.
"Face to Face with History,"
Prologue, Fall 2009, Vol. 41, No. 3.,
National Archives and Records Administration
"A Civil War Surgeon's Books Rediscovered"
Circulating Now, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health
"Physician and Preacher:
Wills R. Revels
and the American Civil War."
Traces, Summer 2010,
Indiana Historical Society
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Author Jill L. Newmark is an independent historian and former Curator and Exhibition Specialist at the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
She has curated numerous exhibitions and written several articles on African American medical personnel who served during the American Civil War.
Links to my presentations:
Oak Leaves on His Shoulder: Discovering the African American Civil War Surgeon
Within These Walls: Contraband Camp and the African Americans Who Served There
In the Press
A magnificent accomplishment. These revelations about Black medical contributions to the war will inspire historians and their students for years to come.
A monumental achievement. The portraits of these men are compelling. Without Concealment, Without Compromise is a must read for anyone interested in either the Civil War or the history of medicine.
“Far from a purely inspirational narrative, Jill L. Newmark aptly demonstrates the social, political, cultural, and personal struggles and indeed artistry of a group of pioneering Black soldier-surgeons whose collective recognition is long overdue."
Author, Intensely Human: The Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War, Professor of History of Medicine, Professor of Medicine, Duke University
Jim Downs, PhD
Author, Maladies of Empire: How Colonialism, Slavery, and War Transformed Medicine, Associate Professor History, Gettsyburg College, Editor of Civil War History
Christopher M. Tinson, PhD
Author, Radical Intellect: Liberator Magazine and Black Activism in the 1960s,
Associate Professor of History, Department Chair African American Studies, St. Louis University.