Brown, Lucy Hughes

April 1863–June 26, 1911

After practicing medicine in North Carolina for two years, Brown moved to Charleston and became the first black female physician to practice in South Carolina. With several other African Americans, she contributed to the establishment of the Cannon Hospital and Training School for Nurses in 1897, which was later renamed McClennan-Banks Hospital.

Physician. Brown was born in April 1863 in North Carolina and was orphaned. She graduated in 1885 from Scotia Seminary in North Carolina. After completing a medical degree at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in March 1894, she was the first African American woman to receive a professional license from the North Carolina Medical Board. She established a practice at Wilmington, North Carolina, and married Reverend David Brown, who was the minister of a Wilmington Presbyterian church. They had one daughter. Brown’s marriage provided community resources and connections that aided her philanthropic efforts to improve conditions for African Americans.

After practicing medicine in North Carolina for two years, Brown moved to Charleston and became the first black female physician to practice in South Carolina. With several other African Americans, she contributed to the establishment of the Cannon Hospital and Training School for Nurses in 1897, which was later renamed McClennan-Banks Hospital. At this hospital Brown headed the department of nursing training. She presented lectures and stressed that practical experience was preferable to textbook knowledge, although she advised students to prepare with a combination of both classroom and practical knowledge. During a two-year program, students spent the first year attending lectures and gaining practical skills in the hospital. The second year was devoted to practical hospital work and assisting cases in the adjacent communities. The first class of nurses benefiting from Brown’s guidance graduated in 1898.

As a recipe for their success, Brown urged graduates to embrace “great adaptability, good judgement, the ability to hold one’s tongue and a willingness to do work outside the usual line,” and to good-naturedly “take for their services what their patients can afford to pay.” She frequently disseminated advice through her roles as an editor of the Hospital Herald and as secretary of the Cannon Hospital Association.

Brown also worked to advance the condition of African American women outside the Cannon Hospital. She served as a delegate to the National Colored Woman’s Congress at the 1895 Atlanta Exposition and assisted in the creating of resolutions addressing southern race relations and demanding safer conditions for women on public transportation. Brown retired in 1904 due to illness and died on June 26, 1911.

Hine, Darlene Clark. Black Women in White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession, 1890–1950. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

–––, ed. Black Women in the Nursing Profession: A Documentary History. New York: Garland, 1985.

Martin, Maxine Smith. “Dr. Lucy Hughes Brown (1863–1911): A Pioneer African-American Physician.” Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association 89 (January 1993): 15–19.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Brown, Lucy Hughes
  • Coverage April 1863–June 26, 1911
  • Author
  • Keywords Physician, Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, North Carolina Medical Board, first black female physician to practice in South Carolina, Cannon Hospital and Training School for Nurses in 1897, editor of the Hospital Herald, National Colored Woman’s Congress
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 1, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 24, 2016
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