Nurses in front of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School, 1530–34 Lombard Street, Philadelphia

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John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

The open doors of Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital frame five nurses. Mosley brings a symmetrical focus to every detail, from the columns to the reflections of light on the doors to the position of nurses’ shoes. The photograph projects a quiet sense of dignity and respect.

In 1895, Dr. Nathan F. Mossell, the first African American to graduate in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, met with other black doctors and conceived of a hospital where black physicians might have an equal opportunity to practice, where black patients could be cared for, and where black nurses might be taught the art of healing the sick. The Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School for Nurses opened its doors later that year in a three-story building at 1512 Lombard Street. The building Mosley photographs was the second site of the hospital, located at 1534 Lombard Street.

In 1948, two years after Dr. Mossell’s death and due to financial instability, Douglass Hospital merged with another predominantly black hospital, Mercy, to create Mercy-Douglass Hospital on Woodland Avenue in West Philadelphia. The hospital graduated hundreds of nurses, many of whom worked in public health, such as providing nursing in Philadelphia’s public schools. The hospital continued its care of the city’s black community until it closed in 1973.

Dr. Mossell was an uncle of Sadie Mossell Tanner Alexander, a prominent lawyer and civil rights activist who served with her husband, Raymond Pace Alexander, as attorney for the Philadelphia NAACP. They are pictured together in the photo below, along with the artist Laura Wheeler Waring, at an art exhibition.

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