Charles H. Wright, M.D.
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Charles Wright

Physician

 

Dr. Charles Wright, M.D.
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. 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
audio clip
The following excerpt illustrates Individual Counter-actions made against segregation in "white" institutions:

"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."

 

William G. Anderson
Reginald P. Ayala
Arthur W Boddie
Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell
Henry C. Bryant Jr.
Alice Burton
Waldo L. Cain
James W. Collins
Claude and Vivienne Cooper
Gladys B. Dillard
George Gaines Jr.
Leon Gant
Herman J. Glass Sr.
Della Goodwin
Joseph B. Harris
Frank P. Iacobell
Horace L. Jefferson
Sidney B. Jenkins
Arthur Johnson
Rachel B. Keith
William E. Lawson
Josephine Love
Hayward Maben Jr.
Berna C. Mason
Suesetta T. McCree
Dorothy Mottley
David C. Northcross Jr.
Ophelia B. Northcross
Marjorie Peebles-Meyers
Frank P. Raiford III
Garther Roberson Jr.
S. L. Roberson
Elsie Smith
Fannie L. Starks
Lionel F. Swan
Natalia M. Tanner
Oretta Mae Todd, Ph.D.
I. Clara Webb
Charles F. Whitten
Charles H. Wright
Watson Young

 

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Copyright , Kellogg African American Health Care Project, 2000.
Text and images may not be used without the permission of the Kellogg African American Health Care Project.