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Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Remembering African American Heroes during Black History Month, 2016

Herman G. Morgan Health Center well baby clinic, Indianapolis, 1947.  Source: US Children’s Bureau,  Prints and Photographs Collection, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine and Fee, et al, 2003.

During February we celebrate African American history and outstanding individuals, especially in Indiana.   To that end, of the many we are highlighting a few of the very many Black contributors to the promotion of health and wellness.     

William Keaton (1916-2004) was an early counselor of persons addicted to alcohol.   Having grown up in the segregated South at a time when school buses refused to carry Black students, he succeeded in graduating from North Carolina Central University.   Afterwards he worked in a Detroit factory until 1950 when, taking a major pay cut, he went to teach for four years at Alabama State College for Negroes.  He then accepted a position in Pennsylvania as public health education consultant for the State Department of Health’s Division of Alcoholic Studies and Rehabilitation.  Seven years later he moved to Michigan, where for many years he counseled people addicted to alcohol at Hurley Medical Center, where in 1958 he became Chief Alcoholism Therapist, a position he held until 1976.   (Rutgers CAS Library, 2011)

Charles Drew (1904-1949) lived only 45 years but left an indelible mark on history.  An African American surgeon and teacher, he is known as the “Father of Blood Banks.”  He was the first to find a method to separate and store blood plasma, making possible the establishment of blood banks for access in time of crisis.   His discovery saved many lives during combat in World War II and millions since.  In his youth, to escape discrimination in the US, he went to Canada to study medicine in Montreal.  Returning to the US he found it almost impossible to be accepted for a residency, but did succeed in being hired to teach pathology at Freedmen’s Hospital in DC (part of Howard Medical School) where he was paid $150/mo.  This hospital received Black patients from across the US.  (Mason, 2015) 

Outstanding African American Hoosiers (Indiana Historical Society, n.d.):

Calvin R. Atkins (1870 - 1923)  was born in Kentucky, the son of former slaves.  After he completed his medical degree at Howard University in 1898, he moved to Anderson, Indiana, where he encountered discrimination against both Black patients and Black physicians that motivated him to build a hospital.  In 1906 he moved to Indianapolis.  There he worked with other Black physicians and together founded the Lincoln Hospital, opened in 1909 to serve African Americans.   This was a time when Blacks and Whites were rigidly segregated.   Unfortunately, like other hospitals established for Blacks, Lincoln Hospital was short-lived, lacking funds and adequate facilities.     

Jesse L. Dickinson (1922-1982) was a legislator who served in the Indiana House, 1943-1947, and 1951-1959, and in the Indiana Senate, 1959-1963.    He represented St. Joseph County.   During his career he advocated strongly for civil rights, mental health, housing, services for the elderly, employment rights, and prison reform.

Pauline B. Eans (1926-1981) distinguished herself as a nursing educator, joining Wishard Hospital in 1955, in the Hospital School of Nursing faculty.  She retired in 1977.

Walter H. Maddux (1892-1978) was a physician who spent 35 years in Indianapolis, where he was with Harvey Middleton he founded the Herman G. Morgan Health Center.   He also worked at Flanner House, a social service agency, and was a veteran of World War I.  Founded through a bequeathed donation in the early 1900’s, Flanner House was a settlement house and social services center for the Black community of Indianapolis, dedicated to promoting their social, spiritual and physical welfare;  The Morgan Health Center was named for the first manager of the Flanner House (Fee, et al, 2003).

Harvey N. Middleton (1895-1978) came to Indianapolis as a cardiologist in the mid 1930’s.  Before 1945, in Indianapolis Black patients were not accepted at either Methodist or St. Vincent Hospitals.   Black patients were only accepted at General Wishard hospital (previously named City Hospital), although as of 1935 no Black physicians were employed there.   That changed in 1942, when Dr. Harvey Middleton was hired at Wishard.  (Nonetheless, as of 1940, the Indianapolis Medical Society did not allow “the admission of colored physicians to the Society.”)  A few years later Dr. Middleton became the first Black doctor in Indianapolis to be employed at both Wishard (then City) Hospital and St. Vincent’s.

Lionel F. Artis (1895-1971) studied in Indianapolis as a youth and then fought in World War I in France.   He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1933 from University of Chicago and a Master of Arts degree in 1941 from Indiana University.   A civic leader in Indianapolis he helped organize the Flanner House Homes and was also associated with the Community Hospital Association, opened in 1932 to offer health services for Blacks in Indianapolis. 

Additional honorees for inclusion in this listing of distinguished Hoosiers include:

Richard G. Hatcher (1933-  ) became in 1968, the first African American to be elected mayor of Gary, mayor of any city in Indiana, and of any city in the US with a population greater than 100,000.   Born into an impoverished family, one of 13 children, he strove throughout his political career to advance  opportunities for education, improved housing and health care for especially the poor, thus advancing protective factors and attacking risk factors for substance abuse and other behavioral health problems.   


Karen Freeman-Wilson, current mayor of Gary, is both that city’s first female mayor and also the first  African American female mayor in Indiana.  Harvard-educated (cum laude), she is known for thinking out-of-the-box.   Her work in the area of substance abuse prevention and treatment is outstanding.  As CEO and past CEO of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and Executive Director of the National Drug Court Institute, she doubled the number of drug courts in the nation and promoted drug treatment within the judicial system, particularly in Indiana.  Defending the vulnerable she moved tobacco settlement dollars to health care and smoking cessation efforts and advanced civil rights legislation in Indiana equivalent to the American Disabilities Act. (City of Gary, 2016)

James Holland ( -1998), Indiana University professor, inspired students and faculty alike.  He was an influential role model and mentor to all, and especially to minority students.   After completing a master’s degree (1958) and doctorate (1961) in endocrinology, he became a faculty member at Howard University until returning to Indiana University in 1967.   He was named the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Medallion, which recognizes transcendent service.   During his 30 years at IU he served on every major university committee and won every major teaching award on the Bloomington campus, most notably awards voted upon by students.

Through their leadership, their mentoring and their advocacy activities, these individuals carried out the work of prevention as role models for people at all points in the life cycle, especially supporting resiliency and determination for youth coping with such barriers to wellness as poverty and discrimination.  Their life stories offer inspiration to all around them.   These are but a few of the many we celebrate this month.


BlackPast.org (20--).  “Hatcher, Richard G. (1933-).  Accessed 2/23/2016 at http://www.blackpast.org/aah/hatcher-richard-g-1933
City of Gary (2016).  “City Departments: About Karen.”  Accessed 2/23/2016 at http://www.gary.in.us/city-departments/mayor.asp
Fee, Elizabeth, Theodore M. Brown, and Roxanne L. Beatty (2003). “A Well Baby Clinic in Indianapolis,” American Journal of Public Health 93/2: 271.  Accessed 2/23/16 at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1449798/
IN Historical Society, African American History Materials, African-American Personal Papers, n.d.  Accessed 2/22/2016 at http://www.indianahistory.org/our-collections/manuscript-and-visual-collections/african-american-history-materials/african-american-personal-papers#.VsuBA1fZ6nk
Indiana University  (2016). Hudson & Holland Scholars Program. Accessed 2/23/2016 at http://www.indiana.edu/~hhsp/Holland.html.

Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies (CAS) (2011). CAS Library News, Spring 2011, p. 3-4.   Accessed 2/22/2016 at http://www.drugs.indiana.edu/repository/0511NewsMay-William_Keaton.pdf

Mason, Deborah Latchison (2015).  Dr. Charles Drew, The Father of Blood Banks,  About Education,  Updated 5/12/15  Accessed 2/22/2016 at http://history1900s.about.com/od/scientists/fl/Dr-Charles-Drew.htm

By Barbara Seitz de Martinez 2/29/2016