Jill L. NewmarkAug 3, 2023
Without Concealment, Without Compromise
The Courageous Lives of Black Civil War Surgeons
Southern Illinois University Press 2023
Of some twelve thousand Union Civil War surgeons, only fourteen were Black men. This book is the first-ever comprehensive exploration of their lives and service.
In Without Concealment, Without Compromise: The Courageous Lives of Black Civil War Surgeons (Southern Illinois UP, 2023), Jill L. Newmark's outstanding research uncovers stories hidden for more than 150 years, illuminating the unique experiences of proud, patriotic men who fought racism and discrimination to attend medical school and serve with the U.S. military. Their efforts and actions influenced societal change and forged new pathways for African Americans.
Individual biographies bring to light Alexander T. Augusta, who challenged discriminatory laws; William P. Powell Jr., who pursued a military pension for twenty-five years; Anderson R. Abbott, a friend of Elizabeth Keckley's; John van Surly DeGrasse, the only Black surgeon to serve on the battlefield; John H. Rapier Jr., an international traveler; Richard H. Greene, the only Black surgeon known to have served in the Navy; Willis R. Revels, a preacher; Benjamin A. Boseman, a politician and postmaster; and Charles B. Purvis, who taught at Howard University. Information was limited for five other men, all of whom broke educational barriers by attending medical schools in the United States: Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed, William B. Ellis, Alpheus W. Tucker, Joseph Dennis Harris, and Charles H. Taylor.
Newmark presents all available information about the surgeons' early lives, influences, education, Civil War service, and post-war experiences. Many of the stories overlap, as did the lives of the men. Each man, through his service as a surgeon during the war and his lifelong activism for freedom, justice, and equality, became a catalyst of change and a symbol of an emancipated future.