Leonard Medical School

Missionary Henry Martin Tupper founded Shaw University, a private African American college, in 1865.  Within a few years, he realized that a medical school for African American was needed, so in 1880, the university’s trustees established Leonard Medical School.  

In 1880, with funding strictly from donors, including the American Baptist Home Mission Society and Judson Wade Leonard, the brother-in-law of Tupper, the school included a medical dormitory that accommodated six students and facilities to educate students.  (The City of Raleigh also donated funds.)  Although Shaw University had fifteen medical students and a dispensary by the following year, it did not have a hospital until 1885.  

Although the first graduating class (1886) included only six students, the university had granted approximately 500 physician degrees to African Americans by 1915.  According to The Baptist Home Mission Monthly, a publication of the American Home Mission Society, all of the school’s graduates passed the State Medical Examination and practiced medicine.


Jeffrey J. Crow, Paul D. Escott, and Flora J. Hatley, A History of African Americans in North Carolina (Raleigh, 2002); James M’Kee, “Leonard Medical School,” Baptist Home Mission Monthly 23 (1901): 79-80; William Powell ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006); Wilbur Watson, Against the Odds: Blacks in the Profession of Medicine in the United States (New Brunswick, 1991).