This Day in History: 1762-05-02

James Derham, the first African American to become a physician in the United States, is born into slavery in Philadelphia. As a child, Derham was transferred to Dr. John Kearsley Jr. under whom Derham studied medicine. Upon Dr. Kearsley’s death, Derham, then fifteen years old, was held in bondage by several different individuals, including Dr. George West, a surgeon for a British regiment during the American Revolutionary War. before being finally being held by New Orleans doctor Robert Dow in whose prescribe Derham assisted. Derham subsequently gained his emancipation and opened his own medical practice in New Orleans. In 1788, Derham and Dr. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) met in Philadelphia, and corresponded with one another for twelve years. Learn more.