THE NEGROES OF NEBRASKA

Negroes In the Professions


     (35) The professional men among the Negroes of Nebraska, aside from members of the clergy, are relatively few in number. It is unquestionably true that many who would otherwise enter the professions are financially unable to do so. On the other hand, the professional Negro, with his clientele among members of his own race, cannot expect an assured income. Too many Negroes have yearly incomes barely sufficient for the necessities of life, with nothing left to pay the doctor, dentist or attorney, even in cases of need.

     Still another factor, with regard to the medical profession, at least, discourages the aspiring Negro student-physician. In Nebraska he finds it difficult to secure the training in practical work which is needed toward successful completion of his course. There are no strictly Negro hospitals or clinics in the State where the medical student can get his clinical experience. Although Negroes are not barred from the institutions which afford training to medical students, nevertheless they are usually not encouraged to apply for admission to any of the medical colleges In Nebraska. Only three Negroes have graduated from any of the medical schools in Nebraska; none of them is practicing in this State. Dr. James Lewis, a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, is practicing in Fort Scott, Kansas. Dr. W. H. Taylor, a graduate of the College of Medicine of Creighton University, is practicing in Davenport, Iowa. Dr. M. O. Ricketts, an ex-slave, graduated with honor from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine in 1884.

     At the present time, exclusive of clergymen, there are not over twenty-five Negro professional men in Nebraska, including physicians, dentists and attorneys. This may seem a small number, in view of the fourteen to fifteen thousand Negroes in the State, yet it is probably all that the group can support. Some of these men, the majority of whom reside in Omaha, have become comparatively wealthy; the rest, though making a living, have not been so fortunate.

     (36) The first Negro physician to practice in Omaha, Dr. W. H. C. Stephenson, an ex-slave, came there in 1890. He died in 1900, and his place was taken by Dr. J. H. Hutton who, until his death in 1939, was Omaha's oldest Negro physician. Two other pioneer Negro physicians of Omaha, Drs. Riddle and Madison, come years ago, opened a hospital for Negroes. There were not enough Negroes in Omaha to support a hospital, and the venture failed. Dr. George A. Flippin, from Grand Island, and his father operated for several years the Mawood Hospital at Stromsburg. Dr. Aaron McMillan, one-time member of the Legislature, is now a missionary in Africa. Dr. M. O. Ricketts, who practiced in Omaha from 1884 to 1903, was one of Nebraska's most influential Negroes. He served two terms in the State Legislature, in 1892 and 1894, and was constantly active in behalf of the members of his race. The only Negro physician in Lincoln at the time of his death in 1938, Dr. Arthur B. Moss, had practiced there since 1913.

     The oldest living Negro dental practitioner in Omaha is Dr. W. W. Peebles. There are, in addition to him, three Negro dentists practicing in Omaha.

     The oldest Negro attorney in Nebraska, and in many respects one of Nebraska's outstanding Negroes, is H. J. Pinkett. His knowledge of the history of Nebraska's Negroes is extensive, and he has written considerable material dealing with that subject.

     The first Negro to be admitted to the bar in Nebraska was Silas Robbins, in 1889. He conducted his practice in Omaha, where he died several years ago.

     Another prominent Negro attorney is John Adams, Jr., of Omaha. Although a young man, his ability in leadership has sent him to the Nebraska Legislature for the third time. He is a member of the present Unicameral.

     (37) Almost without exception the leaders among the Negroes of Nebraska have come from the small professional group. Dr. M. O. Ricketts, H. J. Pinkett, John Adams, Jr., Dr. Wesley Jones and Thomas P. Mahammitt have been mentioned above. Mr. Mahammitt, though not a professional man, deserves mention with these others because of his long years of service to his group. Finally, Rev. John Albert Williams must be included in this group because of a lifetime of constant effort in behalf of Negro betterment.

 

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