Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2020/Fall/105i/Section 50/Edward Roundtree

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Edward Roundtree
Born1910
New York, U.S.
DiedUnknown
Cause of deathUnknown
ResidenceRaleigh, North Carolina
NationalityAmerican
Other namesDr. Ross
EthnicityAfrican American
EducationM.D.|Master's Degree in Science
OccupationPhysician
Raleigh, North Carolina c.1920's
Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

Overview[edit | edit source]

Edward Roundtree, born in 1910, was an African American physician during the Great Depression. He was born into a Catholic family who lived in New York, but he later resided in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Brenda Terrance. He was interviewed by the Federal Writers Project in 1939.[1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

In 1910, Edward Roundtree was born to an African American Catholic family in New York. He attended grade school in four different places, as his father often moved his family around to find the right place to establish himself. Once Roundtree finished high school, he attended Temple University, in Pennsylvania for a few months before getting expelled due to a racially instigated fight.[2] As Roundtree reported in an interview with the Federal Writer’s Project, he believed in “proper training and education,” and transferred schools. He attended Wilberforce University for 2 years and later transferred to Villanova University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in science. Upon graduating, he attended multiple universities including the University of Pennsylvania, to complete advanced coursework. To pay for school he worked as a railroad mechanic, exploring the country, before attending Meharry Medical School, where he met his wife Brenda Terrence.[3] Roundtree’s “fascination” with medicine and his desire to “serve humanity” motivated him to graduate from medical school. After years of interning, he practiced his dream job alongside his uncle. Edward believed in the pursuit and power of education and thought of it as the key to a better America. He knew that with proper education, social and economic reform “America would be a better place in which to live.”[4]

Career[edit | edit source]

In the fall of 1932, he attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. In his interview with the Federal Writer's Project, he claimed he loved studying there, as he was fascinated with medicine and appreciated the "cultured atmosphere" of the school. After graduating from this university, he was able to practice medicine alongside his uncle. In the interview, Roundtree said he was proud, for he could finally "be of service to his people and impart the knowledge he'd gained through the years of toil, study, and research."[5]

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

Controversy Over Access to Healthcare During the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

During the Great Depression, healthcare arose as a pressing yet controversial concern. As a result of many individuals losing their jobs, they lacked healthcare. However, the American Journal of Public Health reported that during this time unemployment overshadowed health care as a “social priority,” leaving healthcare reformers desperate for support.[6] The efforts made by healthcare reformers centered around the question of whether the US should adopt socialized/ universal healthcare regulated by the government or handing over hand over “federal subsidies to states rather than a national system.”[7]

The concern and hesitation regarding the adoption of universal healthcare arose from the idea that the government “would lead to government control of the American medical physician.”[8]

Because of the controversy, the Roosevelt administration ran into many conflicts with the American Medical Association. Although the association did not oppose government aid with health insurance, it and many physicians across the country did oppose the input of outside agencies on the doctor- patient relationship.[9]

Fearing the political power of the AMA, “Roosevelt bowed to the AMA rather than to healthcare reformers.” This ultimately left many Americans without adequate access to healthcare until Truman’s presidency.[10]

Economical Inequalities African Americans Faced During the 1930s[edit | edit source]

While the Great Depression hurt most Americans, it took its greatest toll on African American communities. Once the stock market crashed in 1929, “African Americans were the first to see hours and jobs cut, and they experienced the highest unemployment rate during the 1930s.”[11]

The unemployment rates of African Americans greatly exceeded whites. According to the author of the “Last Hired First Fired: How The Great Depression Affected African Americans” article, Christopher Klein reported that “In cities across the North, approximately 25 percent of white workers were unemployed in 1932, while the jobless rates among African Americans topped 50 percent in Chicago and Pittsburgh and 60 percent in Philadelphia and Detroit.”[12] This forced many blacks to depend on the government for support and aid.

While Roosevelt was known for having a “Black Cabinet,” as he appointed more black individuals to his administration than any US president preceding hum, his efforts fell short of aiding African Americans. This is because during this time “economic assistance, [was] administered at a state level where racial segregation was still widely, and systematically, enforced.”[13]

Democratic officials in the south were still “racially conservative” despite them being a part of the same Democratic party alongside Roosevelt, a northern democrat.The lack of effective aid for African Americans resulted due to Roosevelt’s “[refusal] to risk [their] support by challenging segregation in the South.” Throughout this time, Roosevelt was passive toward the civil rights of African Americans, as “economic reconstruction took precedence over all other concerns” stated historian Harvard Stikoff.[14]

This form of discrimination would lead to an increase in African American Civil Activism, which would spark the Civil Rights Movement in the next decades.[15]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.[Young Dr. Edward Roundtree], in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: 1-2 https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/1196/rec/1
  2. Ibid.,2-3
  3. Ibid.,3-4
  4. Ibid.,7-8
  5. Ibid.,4
  6. Beatrix Hoffman “Healthcare Reform and Social Justice Movements in the United States” American Journal of Public Health, 93 no.1 (2003) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447696/
  7. Ibid.
  8. "Public Health 1929-1941 ." Historic Events for Students: The Great Depression. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 30, 2020). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-and-education-magazines/public-health-1929-1941
  9. [Young Dr. Edward Roundtree], in the Federal Writers' Project papers:6
  10. Ibid.
  11. Christopher Klein “Last Hired, First Fired: How the Great Depression Affected African Americans.” History, April 18, 2018 https://www.history.com/news/last-hired-first-fired-how-the-great-depression-affected-african-americans
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Historian, Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008. “Party Realignment And The New Deal,” https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Essays/Keeping-the-Faith/Party-Realignment--New-Deal/
  15. Christopher Klein “Last Hired, First Fired: How the Great Depression Affected African Americans.”.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Historian, Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008. “Party Realignment And The New Deal,” https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Essays/Keeping-the-Faith/Party-Realignment--New-Deal/

Hoffman, Beatrix “Healthcare Reform and Social Justice Movements in the United States” American Journal of Public Health, 93 no.1 (2003) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447696/

Klein, Christopher “Last Hired, First Fired: How the Great Depression Affected African Americans.” History, April 18, 2018 https://www.history.com/news/last-hired-first-fired-how-the-great-depression-affected-african-americans

"Public Health 1929-1941 ." Historic Events for Students: The Great Depression. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 30, 2020). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-and-education-magazines/public-health-1929-1941

[Young Dr. Edward Roundtree], in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/1196/rec/1