John Dittmer, the former Tougaloo historian whose “Local People” in 1994 became the definitive work about Mississippi’s civil rights era, now has brought forth the untold story of how a group of black doctors — among them some Mississippi stalwarts — broke down Jim Crow in medical care.
In “The Good Doctors,” Dittmer tells the heroics of how African-American doctors had to fight to obtain justice in hospitals and clinics, and to tear down the color barrier in the American Medical Association.
This is the story of Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) which had its origins in the early 1960s after a previously inept organization for black doctors had failed to get recognition for black medical practitioners and caregivers, and overcome the AMA’s rejection of black doctors becoming members of its affiliates.
One Mississippian who became prominent in the MCHR was Dr. Robert Smith of Jackson who until today maintains a vast practice in the black community and area hospitals. Bob Smith was the soft-spoken son of a prosperous cattle farming family in Terry who insisted he attend Tougaloo College from which he graduated and then was accepted into Howard University Medical School in Washington.