Ezelle Sanford III
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

Homer G. Phillips

The Dissertation


"A Source of Pride, A vision of Progress:  

The Homer G. Phillips Hospital of St. Louis, MO (1937-1979)"

Opening in February of 1937 after more than a decade of political debate and the yet-t-be-solved murder of its namesake, Homer G. Phillips Hospital  rose to become one of the most well-known African American hospitals in the United States.  In the "separate-but-equal" Jim Crow Era, the hospital trained a significant number of graduate medical students, nurses, and allied health professionals.  Though closed in 1979, the hospital, and the man for whom the hospital was named, have left a long-lasting legacy still alive in the minds of Black St. Louisans to date.   This dissertation, sitting at the intersection of medical, African American, and urban histories, argues that Homer G. Phillips Hospital, and similar segregated institutions, operated in multiple dimensions for multiple interested parties.  In essence, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was more than a hospital for those who interacted with it.  This dissertation adds significant nuance and local complexities to the overall history of segregated  healthcare in the United States.


At the Forefront of American Medicine...

When African American physicians and nurses could train nowhere else, Homer G. Phillips Hospital offered a haven to these professionals-in-training.  The hospital was renowned for its top-notch staff, biomedical research, and residency programs. Graduates of the Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing became leaders in their field.  Homer G. Phillips Hospital, as a historical case study, offers a glimpse, not only to changing standards in graduate medical education especially in the Jim Crow Era; it offers a way to trace the shifting socio-political role of American hospitals over the course of the twentieth century.


A City & Community Institution

Beyond its role as a general city hospital, Homer G. Phillips was a social and community institution.  Born out of necessity, the hospital was located in the heart of the Ville, a self-sufficient African American community in North St. Louis. Black St. Louisans developed a deep connection to the hospital. The institution became the "Crown Jewel" of Black St. Louis.  This relationship explains, in part, the flurry of activism to open the hospital in the 1930’s and efforts to keep the hospital open in the late 1970’s.   As St. Louis blossomed and shrank, like many other Midwestern cities in the midst of “urban decline” during the course of the twentieth century, it became impossible for the City of St. Louis to maintain this important institution.

Homer g. phillips oral history project

To fully capture the various experiences of people who interacted with Homer G. Phillips Hospital, Ezelle is conducting the Homer G. Phillips Oral History Project.  Participants elect to be interviewed and recorded for 1-2 hours, describing their experiences and memories of the hospital.   Recorded and transcribed interviews will be donated to the Department of Special Collections at Washington University in St. Louis.  Were you an employee and/or professional working at Homer G.?  Were you an admitted patient at Homer G.?  Would you be willing to share your story?  If you would be interested in participating, or would like more information about the project, please visit the Contact page and fill out the form at the bottom or email ezelles@princeton.edu.