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Emory University’s “Negro Race” Rejection: “American Values” from Not That Long Ago

June 13, 2022

This happened only 63 years ago:

“Acknoweldgement is made of your letter of July 30, enclosing your application for admission to our School of Medicine. I am sorry I must write that we are not authorized to consider for admission a member of the Negro race.”

In June 2021, Emory University sent rejected applicant (now retired Dr.) Marion Hood a letter of apology. Here’s the story as reported in WebMD:

June 24, 2021 — A letter dated Aug. 5, 1959, hangs framed in the basement of Marion Hood, MD, a retired gynecologist and obstetrician.

“I am sorry I must write you that we are not authorized to consider for admission a member of the Negro race,” the letter reads. “I regret that we cannot help you.”

Hood received the letter, along with a returned $5 application fee, less than a week after he applied.

This month, just ahead of Juneteenth, Hood received another apology from Emory University’s School of Medicine — this time, for the university’s role in the systemic injustices that served as barriers for Hood and other people of color.

“Throughout American history and Emory’s history, Dr. Hood and so many other talented students were denied access to achieve their dreams, to realize their potential,” said Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves, PhD, during an event honoring Hood. “We’ve come together today to confront a painful part of our history, but also to celebrate the journey of an individual who overcame systemic barriers to build a distinguished career dedicated to medicine, patient care, and serving his community.”

Hood had started a master’s program for biochemistry at Howard University when he was accepted to Loyola medical school in 1961. And although his rejection was unquestionably unjust, Hood said he never dwelled on it.

But he did use it as a teaching tool for his students.

“There’s no reason to dwell on Emory sending me a letter. I did not expect to get into Emory,” Hood said. “But I had [the letter] framed in my office so when medical students came through, I let them know how far we’ve come, how far we have to go.”

The week before Juneteenth, the school’s dean, Vikas P. Sukhatme, MD, presented Hood with another letter.

“On behalf of Emory University School of Medicine, I apologize for the letter you received in 1959 in which you were denied consideration for admission, due to your race,” it said. “We are deeply sorry this happened and regret that it took Emory more than 60 years to offer you our sincere apologies.”

Sukhatme said about 16% of medical students at Emory are Black, and the Atlanta school admitted its first Black medical student in 1963.

Hood offered a piece of advice to current and incoming medical students.

“Obstacles are always going to be there,” he said. “If you dream of doing something, you should not let anyone else tell you that you can’t do your dream … you should follow your dream as far as you can go.”

Retired OBGYN Dr. Marion Hood/NYTimes

When I hear people lament “the good old days” and “returning to American values,” my first thoughts are “Whose values?” and “Good for whom?”

There’s a whole lot of ugly in those “American values” from the “old days.” We need to remember that and continue to confront it.

Some “American values” from the “old days.” Definitely not “good.”


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One Comment
  1. speduktr permalink

    Thank you for this post. We have so far to go, but it is important to know that we are “going” however slowly.

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