Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

August 25, 1917

On August 25, 1917, the Philadelphia Tribune reported that the National Medical Association (an organization of black physicians, surgeons, dentists, and pharmacists from the United States and West Indies) had moved their annual meeting from Memphis to Philadelphia in response to the lynching of Ell Persons. “When preparations were being made by the local physicians of Memphis for the entertainment of the National body, a brutal lynching took place in the city of Memphis,” the Tribune said. “The victim was decapitated and his head was thrown in the midst of the assembled professional men with a warning that the National Medical Association was not wanted in the city of Memphis.” Despite this outrage, the National Medical Association was determined to meet, and the Tribune was proud to report that “with less than three months to prepare for the entertainment of three or four hundred men and women from all parts of the country the men of Philadelphia rallied and are now completing arrangements for one of the best sessions in the history of the National Medical Association.” The article went on to note that the conference would include a public meeting that would be held at Union Baptist Church in South Philadelphia and would feature speeches by Philadelphia politicians and music. The soloist in the musical portion was twenty-year-old Marian Anderson.

For a contemporary piece on the Ell Persons lynching, see Martha Park’s “Memphis Burning”

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