The extraordinary tale of health care professionals who fought the crippling effects of segregation and challenged the medical establishment
In the summer of 1964 medical professionals, mostly white and northern, organized the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) to provide care and support for civil rights activists organizing black voters in Mississippi. They left their lives and lucrative private practices to march beside and tend the wounds of demonstrators from Freedom Summer, the March on Selma, and the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968.
Galvanized and sometimes radicalized by their firsthand view of disenfranchised communities, the MCHR soon expanded its mission to encompass a range of causes from poverty to the war in Vietnam. They later took on the whole of the United States healthcare system. MCHR doctors soon realized fighting segregation would mean not just caring for white volunteers, but also exposing and correcting shocking inequalities in segregated health care. They pioneered community health plans and brought medical care to underserved or unserved areas.
Though education was the most famous battleground for integration, the appalling injustice of segregated health care levelled equally devastating consequences. Award-winning historian John Dittmer, author of the classic civil rights historyLocal People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, has written an insightful and moving account of a group of idealists who put their careers in the service of the motto “Health Care Is a Human Right. ”
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