Charles Howard Wright was born on September 20, 1918 in
Dothan, Alabama. He attended Southeast Alabama High School
and then Alabama State College, graduating from each institution
in 1935 and 1939, respectively. Meharry Medical School
admitted him in the fall of 1939 and Dr. Wright successfully
graduated from Meharry in 1943.
Following medical school, Dr. Wright received additional medical training at Harlem
Hospital in New York, where he served as an intern and pathology resident in 1943 and
1944. Because there was no slot available at Harlem Hospital in Obstetrics and Gynecology,
Dr. Wright accepted a second Pathology residency at Cleveland City Hospital in Cleveland,
Ohio. He completed his second residency in 1945.
From 1946 to 1950, Dr. Wright practiced general medicine in the city of Detroit, until
Harlem Hospital notified him of a slot in their residency program in Obstetrics and
Gynecology. He returned to New York and completed the program in 1953. Connections between
doctors in New York and Detroit provided him the opportunity for admitting privileges at
Hutzel (then Woman's) Hospital in Detroit upon his return. Dr. Wright was board certified
as an OB-GYN specialist and as a general surgeon in 1955. He was an emeritus attending
physician at Harper-Grace Hospital and a senior attending physician at Sinai Hospital. In
addition, Dr. Wright was an assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN at Wayne State
University Medical School from 1969 to 1983. He continued practicing medicine in Detroit,
becoming a Senior Attending Physician at Hutzel Hospital, until retiring in 1986.
In addition to his medical career, Dr. Wright has always been involved in the social
and political aspects of medicine and society. In 1960, he spearheaded the African Medical
Education Fund through the Detroit Medical Society in order to fund the medical training
in the United States for Africans. A call from his niece in 1965 prompted his travel to
Bogalusa, Louisiana where he served as a resident physician during civil rights marches.
In 1964 and 1965, he engaged in medical surveys in West Africa. Dr. Wright also traveled
to Cartegena, Columbia in 1967 to serve on the S.S. Hope, a floating hospital for people
in need. He is also the founder of the Museum of African American History in Detroit.
In retirement, Dr. Wright has written and published one of the few volumes about the
history of African Americans in health care in Detroit, entitled The National Medical
Association Demands Equal Opportunity: Nothing More, Nothing Less (1995). He is also
the author of Robeson: Labor's Forgotten Champion (1975) and The Peace Advocacy
of Paul Robeson (1984). Dr. Wright remains active in the Detroit Medical Society and
the Paul Robeson Centennial Celebration Committee.
|Tape recorded interview;
West Bloomfield Hills, MI
15 April 1997
following excerpt illustrates Individual
Counter-actions made against segregation in "white"
"I went to Hutzel...it was called Woman's
Hospital then, that was a very prominent women's hospital, and it was a white hospital, it
still is----anyway it was very prominent, and it was prominent for me as an obstetrician
because I was...this is what I did--OB-GYN. What happened though, in 1956, three years
after I got started, a senator from Michigan wrote in the Detroit Free Pressthat
the government had appropriated $600,000, I think, in renovation money for Hutzel (that's
the name of it--Hutzel Hospital) to alter its operating room, delivery room, and this kind
of thing, and this was their participation in the medical center development. So his name
was Hart, Phil Hart was his name, senator, and so that afternoon (and this was the morning
paper) I sent him a letter telling him, "Don't give them a dime." I said,
"They discriminate against my patients." They wouldn't allow my patient to come
into the hospital if there was not a vacancy in a room where another black patient was.
And they didn't accept black interns and residents. And they took me largely because I had
been recommended by [the same doctor at Sinai Hospital], and I knew that was no way to do
it. So I wrote him and told him, "Don't send them a dime," and I said, "now
you don't have to come at any time, any particular time to check on it, come any time and
see for yourself." And he sat down and sent copies of everything I said to him to the
chairman of the board of trustees at Hutzel. He said, "Dr. Wright is accusing you of
this. Is it true?" Well, he made such a noise until he might come and look. And did
you know the next day they were integrated.
They never forgave me for whistling. I was a whistle-blower. But that didn't matter.
You take your lumps, and then you go ahead. But the community knew what we were doing, and
so rather than lose that money, they came along. That was just part of our fight. We used
to go into the board rooms in Grace [Hospital] and other places, and meet with the
superintendent of the hospital. We wanted to know, "Why aren't you integrating? What
are your plans? Do you have any long-term plan?" And they would hem and haw and
promise and stuff, but nothing much happened until we threatened to shut it down, and then
they got the message."