Just days before the university celebrated its 125th anniversary, the Carrie Meek-James Eaton Black Archives Research Center sent an application to the State of Florida Historical Markers Program in an effort to recognize the historic Florida A&M Hospital.
FAMU Hospital opened in 1911 and became Florida’s first and longest surviving hospital for African-Americans. The hospital provided services for both whites and blacks and became an essential establishment in Leon County. The original hospital was replaced in 1950 with the newer and larger Foote-Hilyer building and continued to serve as a hospital for the next 20 years.
The hospital, named after Jennie Virginia Hilyer, a registered nurse, and Leonard H. Foote, M.D., was one of the largest employers of African-Americans in Tallahassee.
Nathaniel Wesley, a former FAMU professor and author of “Black Hospitals in America: History, Contributions and Demise” was one of the driving forces behind the effort.
“A lot of students have no idea that there was ever a hospital on FAMU’s campus,” Wesley said.
According to Wesley, the hospital was training grounds for pharmacy and nursing students and later introduced FAMU’s School of Nursing, the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the School of Allied Health.
By the end of the 20th century, 25 black hospitals in Florida were all were closed, including FAMU’s hospital in 1971.
“As white institutions were being integrated in, black institutions were being integrated out,” Wesley said.
Jessika Crolle, 19, a second-year pre-pharmacy student from Jacksonville, believes the marker will help remind Famuans of their legacy.
“It will definitely serve as a reminder for African-Americans about the things that we have accomplished,” Crolle said.
As the members of the Black Archives await the approval of the marker, they’ll continue to promote the hospital’s historical value through its celebration of American Archives Month, intended to support current archival efforts, raise awareness among various audiences regarding unique archival services, and encourage more people to utilize archival resources.
Murrell Dawson, the director of the Black Archives, believes proof is the basis of establishing historical significance.
“Most of the documentation that we used to support the marker came from records in the archives,” Dawson said.
The Black Archives will present a series of mini informational sessions on Oct. 26 that will reintroduce its archival collections and services to the public.
Students, faculty and community members are encouraged to attend the sessions to learn more about the history of FAMU’s hospital and the Black Archives’ archival services.