DANIEL DALE WILLIAMS: Open-Heart Doctor by Lewis H. Fenderson


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Daniel Dale Williams was a blue-eyed, reddish-haired ""black"" physician and surgeon who graduated in 1883 from the prestigious Chicago Medical College (later Northwestern), established in Chicago the exemplary Provident Hospital and nursing school for blacks, vastly upgraded the black Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C. (which he left because of political harassment), was attending physician at Chicago's renowned (white) St. Luke's Hospital, was a member of the Illinois Board of Health and a charter member of the AMA, and performed the first recorded case of suture of the pericardium. It was a fertile period in medical history and for that reason as well as Dr. Dan's race (both he and his father were active crusaders for equality) his story is of interest; as told here however it is wooden and unnecessarily flat. Fenderson emphasizes Williams' middle class gentility and ""tone"" and his association with prominent whites while ignoring his more ""militant"" statements, never gives the reason for the vengeful Dr. Hall's lifelong and most effective opposition (Williams had opposed the less qualified man's appointment at Provident but was overruled by the board), glosses over his mother's apparent rejection and idealizes his marriage. Further, the fictionalized conversations are too often exchanges of platitudes and the narration insipid (Williams found physiology and histology ""intriguing but in the long run dull""; his wife had ""a ladylike carriage that had been drilled into her by a fastidious mother""). None of this quite disqualifies the first full-length juvenile on the subject, but where black biographies are most in demand this will be least acceptable and in any case Dr. Dan rates more distinguished treatment.

Pub Date: March 29th, 1972
Publisher: McGraw-Hill