Celebrate Black History

Remembering the Early Defunct African American Pharmacy Schools

The emergence of the early African American pharmacy schools ran parallel with the healthcare crisis following the Civil War, the period of post-Civil War Reconstruction, and the enforcement of “Jim Crow” laws from the the 1870s to the 1890s. Only two of those schools that were formed during the period exist today, which includes Howard University and Xavier University of Louisiana Colleges of Pharmacy. Seven of the schools are now defunct but not before creating the path for diversity and inclusion in pharmacy that continues today. Not mentioned here is the Washington College of Pharmacy which was opened from 1922 to 1926.

University of West Tennessee College of Pharmacy

The University of West Tennessee (UWT) was co-founded in 1900 by Dr. Miles Vandahurst Lynk and his wife, Beebe Steven Lynk, in Jackson, Tennessee. The pharmacy program started in 1901 as a department of the UWT. At the beginning of the 1909 session, the pharmacy program was referred to as the College of Pharmacy in all  the official annual catalogues and announcements. Initially, it was a two-year program and became a three-year program in 1906. Once all requirements were met, the Pharmaceutical Chemist (Ph.C.) degree was awarded. The College of Pharmacy closed around 1923. The total number of pharmacists that graduated from UWT is not known.  The pharmacy department started with 4 students in the first class. There were 4 graduates in the 1903 class, 5 in the 1910 class, 3 in the 1911 class, and 4 in the 1923 class. It is likely that there were more graduates in other years. Records that would provide detailed information about the school appear to have been lost or destroyed.

Frelinghuysen University School of Pharmacy

The Frelinghuysen University was a school formed in the Washington, District of Columbia (D. C.) to meet the educational needs of working-class African Americans who wanted to continue their education and maintain their full-time employment. Classes were held at night, at times outside the normal business hours. The school was named in honor of Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, Sr, the U.S. senator from New Jersey who had been an active supporter of civil rights while serving in the Senate. The School of Pharmacy started in 1917. The classes were held on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings each week, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Admission was open to both men and women, with no restrictions because of race or religion. After three years of course work and meeting all requirements, students were awarded the degree of Doctor of Pharmacy (Phar.D.). Frelinghuysen University lost its charter and closed in 1937. It is unclear how many students were awarded the Phar.D. degree or became registered pharmacists. At the beginning of the 1920-1921 session, one class had completed the 3-year course of study. A record of the actual number of students has not been found. There were 6 third-year (senior) students in the 1921 course record, 2 in the second year, and 12 in the first year class. The pharmacy program was last mentioned in the school reports in 1926.   

Shaw Leonard School of Pharmacy

In 1881, the Leonard School of Medicine and Pharmacy at Shaw University was established Raleigh, North Carolina and approved by the North Carolina legislature.  The pharmacy program started in 1890 as a three-year course each lasting 32 weeks. After all requirements were met, the Ph.G. degree was awarded. Only one student graduated in the first class in 1893. In the first eight years, from 1893-1900, the school’s average enrollment was about six (6) students per year and graduated an average of three (3) students per year. By 1911, approximately 103 students had graduated from the Leonard School of Pharmacy. Although Shaw University had an admission policy that was open to women, it did not admit very many females into the professional pharmacy program. Pearle Rudolph Wassom was the first African American female to receive the Ph.G. degree from the Leonard School of Pharmacy in 1897. The second of the only two females to graduate from the School of Pharmacy between 1897-1909, was Shelley O. Brown, Ph.G. (1909). By 1918, the year that the school closed, 131 African Americans had graduated from the School of Pharmacy. Over 80% of the graduates remained in states throughout the South and provided the pharmaceutical services needed to help address the health disparities that was so prevalent in the African American community.

Meharry Pharmaceutical College

The Meharry Pharmaceutical College was formed as a Department of the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1889. The pharmacy program did not officially enroll students until September 1890. Initially, the program could be completed in two sessions, with each session being 20 weeks long.  At the beginning of the 1895-1896 session, the program was extended to 3 sessions. Upon full completion of all requirements, the Graduate of Pharmacy (Ph.G.) degree was conferred. In 1896,  the college began awarding the Pharmaceutical Chemist (Ph.C.) degree. The Pharmaceutical College reached its peak in student enrollment and graduates between 1916–1925. Enrollment started declining after the 1928 session. When the enrollment failed to reach 20 students, the pharmacy program ended with the graduation of the 1936 class. Meharry Pharmaceutical College had the most significant impact on the education of African American pharmacists in the South. Between 1890 and 1936, Meharry graduated approximately 560 African American pharmacists, of which 82 (15%) were women. Most of the pharmacy graduates (greater than 66%) remained in the South, and filled a void that was sorely needed due to the large underserved African-American communities there, but many went on to be employed and to open drugstores throughout the U.S. for the first time.  

Louisville National Medical College Department of Pharmacy

 The Louisville National Medical College (LNMC) was incorporated in the state of Kentucky on April 24, 1888. The school was founded by three African American physicians: Dr. William Henry Fitzbutler, Dr. William A. Burney, and Dr. Rufus Conrad. The Pharmaceutical Department opened with the start of the 1902-1903 session. There were two academic sessions divided into 12-week-terms for 24 weeks each year.  The pharmacy program was later increased to three sessions, continuous for 28 weeks in 1903 and again to 30 weeks in 1907. Candidates were awarded the Pharmaceutical Chemist (Ph.C.) degree. In 1912, the LNMC medical school was forced to closed. The Pharmacy Department was closely linked to the Medical Department and soon closed around the same time. The total number of students who enrolled and the total number of graduates in the LNMC Department of Pharmacy is unknown. Between 1902 and 1908,  LNMC graduated two students from the Department of Pharmacy with the Ph.C. degree, which included Jessie Merchant (1904) and E. D. (Edward D.) Morrison (1906).

New Orleans University Flint College of Pharmacy

In September 1900, the New Orleans University College of Pharmacy of Flint Medical College opened in the state of Louisiana.  The College of Pharmacy was a co-educational program whose educational focus was to produce African American pharmacists. The pharmacy curriculum was extended over three sessions of 28 weeks each year. Much of the course activity involved laboratory work in compounding, chemistry, and preparation of drug products. The classes were offered in the day and at night for working students. Students meeting all requirements were initially awarded the Pharmaceutical Chemist (Ph.C.) degree. In 1911, the College started awarding the Graduate in Pharmacy (Ph.G.) degree, which continued up until the school’s closing. The first class started in 1900 and four students were awarded degrees in 1903. In 1911, the Flint Medical College closed.  The College of Pharmacy and Nurse Training School continued for a few years longer. By 1913, the College of Pharmacy had graduated approximately 60 African American pharmacists. Most of the pharmacy graduates (59%) remained in the South, primarily in the State of Louisiana, and thus filled a very needed void for pharmaceutical healthcare. In 1915, the New Orleans University Flint College of Pharmacy closed. In June 1930, New Orleans University and Straight College (formerly Straight University) merged and opened as Dillard University, as it is known today.