Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2013/Fall/Dr. Ross

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This page is connected with English 105 at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill - Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories

Negro doctors scrubbing up before an operation.

Overview[edit]

Dr. Ross was an African-American doctor during the 20th century. He attended Meharry Medical College in 1936, and then co-partnered at a practice with his uncle, Dr. Plummer. Ross was interviewed in 1939 as part of the Federal Writers’ Project, a job-provision program during the Great Depression.

Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Dr. Ross was born in 1910 in New York State. From a very young age, Ross established that he wanted to be a doctor like his grandfather, father, and uncle before him. [1]

Undergraduate Education[edit]

Dr. Ross studied at Temple University until a skirmish that was instigated by racial hatred towards one of Ross’ black friends resulted in him and his friends being ousted from the university. Ross then applied to the University of Pennsylvania, but was denied. He additionally applied to Wilberforce University, where he was accepted; however, Temple University refused to transfer his credits. After two years at Wilberforce, Ross transferred to Villa Nova Catholic College where he completed his Bachelor of Science degree.[2] Because of the many obstacles Ross faced throughout his education, he was an advocate for education equality, as is seen in his interview with the statement:

“[Education] is one thing that the Negro has long been desirous of….The country has made rapid progress since the Negro was emancipated; and I feel that in time, these conditions will be better too. When this time does come, America will be a better place in which to live.”[3]

Post-Graduate and Medical Education[edit]

Upon completion of his Bachelor degree, Dr. Ross went on to earn his Master of Science at Ohio State University. He concluded his education with a brief period of study at the University of Pennsylvania, which had previously denied him admission. After Ross left university, he worked as a waiter on the railroad, which enabled him to meet a variety of people and see numerous places that he would not have otherwise encountered. In 1932, following his job on the railroad, Ross attended Meharry Medical College, located in Nashville, Tennessee, one of only two black colleges at the time.[4]

Personal Life and Professional History[edit]

In Ross’s senior year of medical school, he met his future wife, Brenda Terrence, and they were married in 1938.[5] Post-completion of medical school, Ross interned as a resident surgeon. After the conclusion of his internship, Dr. Ross co-partnered at a practice, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his uncle, Dr. Plummer.[6]

Social Issues[edit]

Disparities among the Races in Secondary Education during the Great Depression[edit]

Around the time of Great Depression, African-Americans were faced with the obstacle of overcoming education disparities starting in primary school. Black public schools did not have the same resources as their white counterparts even though the constitution required that segregated schools had to be “separate but equal.” In addition to the inequalities in school buildings, supplies, books, and treatment of students and teachers, standard high school programs were often not even offered. These educational inconsistencies proved especially challenging for aspiring physicians as progressing onto each higher level of education provided new challenges to overcome. Often this inequality eliminated most African-Americans from the possibility of a medical career before they were even out of their teens.[7] Dr. Ross’ sporadic and uncertain path through his undergraduate education embodies the educational disparities that African-Americans, and particularly aspiring black physicians, faced during this time period.

Racial Prejudice in Medical Education and the Health Field[edit]

For those aspiring black physicians who were able to progress onto medical school, numerous obstacles related to racial prejudice leftover from the time of slavery further hindered their progress. In 1900, ten medical schools were open to black students, however, many of these schools were forced to close as medical associations began to promote more rigorous education and the use of newer medical equipment.[8] These changes put more financial pressures on black medical institutions and many could not keep up since these institutions did not receive state funding and a large portion of the student population came from impoverished families.[9] Many of these students were inspired to become doctors because they, “saw a medical education as a ticket out of the South, away from poverty and segregations,” thus they had little to give in return for their education.[10] By 1923, Howard University Medical School and Meharry Medical College were the only historically black medical schools remaining in the US.[11] Howard University was the only black medical school in the U.S. to receive federal funding from the start, while Meharry College, the institution that Dr. Ross attended, faced an arduous road when it came to gathering funding. For numerous years, Meharry struggled to educate its students in the clinical aspect of medicine as they did not have a hospital on campus.[12] Additionally, hospitals both in the South and outside of the South during this time period would rather leave internships unfilled than admit black doctors because they did not want black physicians treating white patients, especially women.[13]

Federal Writers' Project[edit]

Background[edit]

The Federal Writers Project was created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935. This program was introduced to provide jobs for writers and other literary professionals during the Great Depression. It was, “a project made up largely of workers with little or no writing experience, most of whom had to qualify as paupers before they could be employed."[14] This large variance in literary experience produced a range of articles that sometimes incorporated artistic license that skewed the credibility of the interview.

Historical Production[edit]

The varying degrees of background experience possessed by the Federal Writers’s project employees raises the question of consistency and reliability of the articles. Writers with literary backgrounds often posed the problem of using artistic license to flesh-out the interview.[15] In the interview of Dr. Ross, the writer uses a somewhat superfluous and story-like tone in the structure of the article to paint a realistic picture in the reader’s mind. An example of the superfluous tone of the writer would be when she describes Dr. Ross as being, “arrayed in a summer suit of white."[1] The reader is unable to know the extent of the literary style, so often perception can be skewed.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Robinson, Nancy T. United States. Federal Writers' Project. Young Dr. Edward Rountree (Dr. Ross). Raleigh: Federal Writers' Project (1939): p. 1. Print.
  2. Robinson, Nancy T. United States. Federal Writers' Project. Young Dr. Edward Rountree (Dr. Ross). Raleigh: Federal Writers' Project (1939): p. 2-3. Print.
  3. Robinson, Nancy T. United States. Federal Writers' Project. Young Dr. Edward Rountree (Dr. Ross). Raleigh: Federal Writers' Project (1939): p. 8. Print.
  4. Robinson, Nancy T. United States. Federal Writers' Project. Young Dr. Edward Rountree (Dr. Ross). Raleigh: Federal Writers' Project (1939): p. 3-4. Print.
  5. Robinson, Nancy T. United States. Federal Writers' Project. Young Dr. Edward Rountree (Dr. Ross). Raleigh: Federal Writers' Project (1939): p. 4. Print.
  6. Robinson, Nancy T. United States. Federal Writers' Project. Young Dr. Edward Rountree (Dr. Ross). Raleigh: Federal Writers' Project (1939): p. 6. Print.
  7. Davis, Dr. Anita Price. “Public Schools in the Great Depression.” NCPedia. The Tarheel Junior Historian, (Spring, 2010). Web. 12 Nov 2013. <http://ncpedia.org/public-schools-great-depression>.
  8. Savitt, Todd. “Abraham Flexner and the Black Medical Schools.” Journal of the National Medical Association. 98/9, (2006). Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://thescholarship.ecu.edu/bitstream/handle/10342/3086/Abraham Flexner black medical schools.pdf>, p. 1415
  9. Savitt, Todd. “Abraham Flexner and the Black Medical Schools.” Journal of the National Medical Association. 98/9, (2006). Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://thescholarship.ecu.edu/bitstream/handle/10342/3086/Abraham Flexner black medical schools.pdf>, p. 1416
  10. Ward, Thomas J. Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South. University of Arkansas Press, (2003). eBook. <http://books.google.com/books?id=QoMDMGoyXqsC&printsec=frontcover>, p.97
  11. “African American Physicians and Organized Medicine, 1846-1968.” American Medical Association, (2008). Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/ethics/afamtimeline.pdf>, p. 4
  12. Savitt, Todd. “Abraham Flexner and the Black Medical Schools.” Journal of the National Medical Association. 98/9, (2006, Web. 12 Nov. 2013 <http://thescholarship.ecu.edu/bitstream/handle/10342/3086/Abraham Flexner black medical schools.pdf>, p. 1419
  13. Ward, Thomas J. Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South. University of Arkansas Press, (2003). eBook. <http://books.google.com/books?id=QoMDMGoyXqsC&printsec=frontcover>, p. 60
  14. Mangione, Jerre. The Dream and the Deal: The Federal Writers' Project, 1935-1943. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Web. <http://books.google.com/books?id=8CGsYrBNjY8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=The dream and the deal; the Federal Writers' Project, 1935-1943&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6FOCUoKVK8K2kAei1YDYDQ&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA>, p. 8
  15. Mangione, Jerre. The Dream and the Deal: The Federal Writers' Project, 1935-1943. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Web. <http://books.google.com/books?id=8CGsYrBNjY8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=The dream and the deal; the Federal Writers' Project, 1935-1943&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6FOCUoKVK8K2kAei1YDYDQ&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA>, p. 27