March 8

March 8, 1825 – Alexander Thomas Augusta

The United States Army’s first African American physician and highest ranking African American officer in the army during the Civil War, Alexander Thomas Augusta was born on March 8, 1825 to free African Americans in Norfolk, Virginia.

Alexander Thomas Augusta

Alexander Thomas Augusta

Augusta’s interest in medicine led him to apply for medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. He was not accepted because of his race. Because of the racial policies that existed in college acceptance for medical schools in this country, Augusta applied to and was accepted in 1850 to medical school at Trinity College at the University of Toronto.  He opened a medical practice in Toronto after graduation where he remained for a few years, and eventually moved to Baltimore at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.  After arriving in Baltimore, he was commissioned by President Lincoln as a major and surgeon in the Union army. His rank upon departure from the military was Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. Augusta continued to serve in medicine for the  Freedmen’s Bureau’s by running the Lincoln Hospital in Savannah, Georgia and he later became the first African American faculty member of any American medical school when he accepted a position at Howard University in 1868.  Augusta died in Washington, DC on December 21, 1890 at age 65.