The Flexner Report and the African-American Health Experience: Black Collective Memory and Identity as Shaped by Afro-cultural Trauma and Re-membering

Jasmine Arrington


The 1910 Flexner Report was a seemingly benevolent document intended to standardize medical education and increase the quality of physicians in the United States. Despite good intentions, it was a document with implications for African-Americans. The Flexner Report caused the closing of historically black medical schools, leaving two in the nation – Howard Medical School in the North and Meharry Medical College in the South. African-Americans were excluded from the institution of medicine, leaving blacks vulnerable to institutional abuses in health that facilitated distrust and disenfranchisement. This paper argues that despite the trauma experienced from violation and exclusion, Meharry Medical College serves as a chronotope that helps rebuild and symbolically re-member black collective identity and memory within and beyond medical education. The trauma includes present day black medical students and physicians not considered the equals of their white counterparts and black patients who suffered physical abuse and the infringement of self-determination. That created crises in collective African-American identity, sparking social pain. The Flexner Report is deeply implicated in structural inequality that has systematically disenfranchised African-Americans in medical education. Moving beyond structural inequalities, the Flexner Report is an unacknowledged source of trauma in the collective African-American health experience with both literal and figurative ramifications.


Flexner Report; African-American; Health experience; Afro-cultural trauma; Exclusion; Re-membering

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