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Glasgow University honours first African American medical graduate

image copyrightUniversity of Glasgow
image captionJames McCune Smith graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1837

The first African American to be awarded a medical degree is to be honoured at his former university.

A new £90m building at the University of Glasgow is to be named after James McCune Smith.

The abolitionist, who was born into slavery, graduated from the university with an MD in 1837.

The new learning hub, which will provide teaching space for more than 2,500 students, is expected to open in the next academic year.

Mr McCune Smith, born in 1813, was freed by New York State's Emancipation Act on July 4 1827.

He was denied entry to several American universities because of his race and then he applied for - and was accepted by - the University of Glasgow's medical school.

The James McCune Smith Learning Hub is the first new building being delivered through a £1bn campus development programme.

It comes as the university aims to provide "reparative justice" because of its historical links with the slave trade.

image copyrightUniversity of Glasgow
image captionThe new learning hub will provide teaching space for more than 2,500 students

Prof Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal and vice-chancellor of the university, said: "James McCune Smith was truly a pioneer, not only becoming the first African American to gain a medical degree, but also one of the leading intellectuals of his time.

"The University of Glasgow is proud of our association with his legacy and it is fitting that we honour it in the naming of this building.

"The new James McCune Smith Learning Hub will revolutionise how we deliver learning and teaching support and provide a world-class facility for generations of future students from around the world.

"This is also consistent with actions agreed in our recent report, to provide reparative justice due to the university's historical links with racial slavery, and emphasises our commitment to that programme."

Mr McCune Smith went on to gain three qualifications from the university.

After returning to New York, he set up a practice in lower Manhattan and became recognised as a prominent figure in the black community and a leading intellectual.

A report was published by the university in September detailing its historical links with racial slavery, which includes a programme of reparative justice.

Related Topics

  • Slavery
  • University of Glasgow

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