Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD (First Black Woman to Earn an MD in the USA)

Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD (1831-1895), graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1864. She was the first Black woman to earn a medical degree in the United States and the only Black woman to graduate from the New England Female Medical College, which was absorbed by Boston University in 1873. No photos survive of Dr. Crumpler, and the only details we know of her life come from the introduction to her book, A Book of Medical Discourses, published in 1883.

On July 16, 2020, a gravestone was dedicated to Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler during a ceremony held at Fairview Cemetery, in Hyde Park, MA. Dr. Crumpler’s headstone commemorates her achievement as the first Black woman to earn a medical degree in the US. The ceremony also honored her husband, Arthur Crumpler, who escaped slavery in Virginia and learned to write and add in Boston.  A Boston Globe article by Brian MacQuarrie from July 17, 2020, notes that for more than 100 years, their graves were unmarked. The gravestones were made possible through the contributions of Boston University Medical School, Harvard Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the community at large.

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