Black History Month at the Corner

Black History Month at the Corner

Meredith Gozo, Curator [Photo: David Kramer, 2/21/20]

Spending time at the University of Rochester means feasting on an ever replenished smorgasbord of historical, philosophical, literary, auditory and visual delights found in reading rooms, libraries, lobbies, museums, theaters, auditoriums and in an alcove atop the Rush Rhees building.  (SEE AT END). The current exhibit in the George W. Corner Reading Room at the School of Medicine is no exception.

[Photo: David Kramer]

Recently at the Miner Library in the URMC, I came across an attractively-installed and well-selected display of 18th and 19th century philosophical treatises, a medical text and a biography. Throughout the works, black people are represented as animal-like and physically and mentally inferior specimens sometimes fit for medical experimentation.

(left) an image from the exhibit; (right) from A Treatise on Tropical Diseases: On Military Operations; and on the Climate of the West-Indies (1789) by Benjamin Moseley (page 478). Note that Moseley claims black patients are so tolerant to pain they can hold their own leg during amputation. [Photos: David Kramer]

Intrigued and dismayed, to learn more I turned to Meredith Gozo, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts of the History of Medicine Collection. Recently transplanted from Indiana, Meredith’s enthusiasm for her work and new academic community shone. Meredith doesn’t even mind Rochester winters. Really. In comparison to Chicago where she lived for several years, the city of Rochester seems to clear snow very efficiently.

From Meredith:

This exhibit is a reflection on 18th-19th century conceptions of the black body as spread in print by white physicians of the period. Believe it or not, these ideas have had a bearing on our modern mindset: while the statements in these books seem utterly ridiculous now, recent studies have shown that some of these notions, particularly those about black people’s higher tolerance of pain, persist today. This way of thinking has real consequences when it comes to the kind of healthcare people receive, which is sometimes discriminatory because modern medical practice is informed by racial biases that have their roots in these old, but once “authoritative,” texts.

Text writeups for case materials. Provided by Meredith Gozo

In the future I’d like to do an exhibit that reflects on the contributions of black physicians and staff throughout the history of the Med Center, but there’s an unfortunate lack of representation of this history in the Med Center archives.  As a new person on staff who still has quite a lot to learn about our holdings, I don’t know if those materials are buried or absent—but it’s a priority of mine to bring those stories to light.

Merdith also showed me two photographs she found when exploring the archives of interest to local movie buffs: Peta Lindstrom and Ingrid Bergman and daughter Pia when Lindstrom was a UR medical student in the 1940’s.

(left) Meredith Gozo; (right) a bust engraved with phrenological brain quadrants. Photograph caption: ’42 – ’43 Peta – Ingrid – Pia [Photo: David Kramer]

The George W. Corner Reading Room, David Kramer [Photo: Meredith Gozo]

On Rochester’s first “professional racist:” Dr. John H. Van Evrie (1814 – 1896)

In search of America’s “first professional racist” in Rochester

On Rochester’s first black physician

On Dr. Charles T. Lunsford and the house where he entertained Martin Luther King Jr.

On University of Rochester’s galleries, museums, auditoriums, theaters, domes and libraries

Bringing back the mid 19th Century at the University of Rochester. Nanotechnology meets local history

Celebrating 40 years of BOA editions in the Rush Rhees Friedlander Lobby. And W. D. Snodgrass’ The Führer Bunker

“What would Dr. Lasagna do?” Abby Glogower displays the thoughts and life of a humanist scientist at the University of Rochester

From Daphne with love

In search of Julie Andrews at the George Hoyt Whipple Museum

A personal tour of the URMC during Meliora Weekend with Dr. Ruth Lawrence, URMS ’49. And still on the active faculty.

Red Ryder, The Stockholm Syndrome and a glimpse inside the University of Rochester Theater Community

In search of “Progressive Rock” in the mid-70s at Brighton High School with the University of Rochester’s John Covach

Print is not dead yet at the University of Rochester

Blessing the Boats and a statue where history was made at Edgerton Park

Imaginary languages made real at the University of Rochester

Satiating curiosity at the Martin E. Messinger Periodical Reading Room

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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