Black History Month Pathfinder Profile: Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was an author, activist and a physician. She was inspired to enter the medical field after watching her aunt work as a nurse in the community. Rebecca was raised by her aunt and decided early in her life she would to serve her community in a similar way. Before earning her MD, Rebecca trained on the job as a nurse working with several doctors for 8 years honing her medical skills.

In 1860, she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College. When she graduated in 1864, Crumpler was the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree. The school closed less than 10 years later making Crumpler the only African American woman to earn her MD from the college.

Ever determined to share her knowledge, Dr. Crumpler was also an author. Her work, Book of Medical Discourses was published in 1883 and became one of the very first medical publications by an African American. The book chronicles her life and experiences.

During her time practicing medicine Dr. Crumpler made it a point to serve the indigent and people of color. She worked with other black physicians caring for freed slaves who would otherwise have had no access to medical care. Crumpler worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau as well as various missionary and community groups. Crumpler continued practicing medicine despite the intense racism black physicians experienced in the South.

The Allen Ellison for Congress team celebrates Rebecca Lee Crumpler who challenged the status quo, changed the face of medicine and found a path for African American women to become medical doctors. Rebecca is a pathfinder who helped set the medical field on a new path forward.