Alexander applied to the University of Pennsylvania’s

Alexander Thomas Augusta lived and served in a country that fought to deny him his humanity. Educated in Canada, Alexander was the first Black professor of medicine in America, the first Black surgeon to serve in the American army, and, the first Black hospital administrator in American history. Born to a free couple in Norfolk Virginia on March 18, 1825, Alexander had the odds stacked against him. As a result of the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831, it was illegal for free people of color to learn to read. But as a young man, he flew in the face of the law and taught himself to read in secret while working as a barber. His self-education soon turned to medicine. He applied to the University of Pennsylvania’s medical program but like many Black people in search of higher education, he was rejected. Not to be deterred Alexander sought out a member of the faculty and arranged to be educated privately. After years of education, Alexander felt that he was prepared and ready for medical school. However, his last interaction with American Universities soured his confidence. Instead, Alexander applied was accepted to the Canadian Trinity College in Toronto. He enrolled in 1850 and made a living as a druggist and chemist. The formative years of Alexander’s medical career were spent in Toronto West. There he established a medical practice. In Canada, Alexander’s skill towards medicine was not hindered by his race. The City of Toronto elected him as a director of an industrial school, he participated in antislavery societies, and, founded a literary society that sent books and other education supplied to Black children. Had Alexander settled in Canada, he would have had a successful life where being a Black didn’t mean that he was less of a person. But at the start of the American Civil War in 1861, he moved to Washington DC to serve his country. Alexander knew that during the war it would rare to find a doctor who would treat Black troops with the respect they deserved. He wrote to President Abraham Lincoln and offered his services as a surgeon. In 1862 he was given presidential commission to the Union Army. A year later, in 1863, he was given a major’s commission as a surgeon for Black troops. It made him the first Black surgeon to serve the American army and, at the time, the highest-ranking Black officer.  While he served, Alexander lead the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington DC, making him the first Black hospital administrator in  American history.Alexander’s life in the army wasn’t always on the up. Many whites resented how high a rank a Black could have reached. In the summer of 1863, Alexander was mobbed in Baltimore while wearing his army uniform. In Washington, it happened again. By the time Alexander left the army he was a Lieutenant Colonel. After leaving the army, Alexander spent the rest of his life in Washington DC where he established a medical practice. He organized a medical department at Howard University and that made him the first Black professor of medicine in American history. While he was accomplished, decorated, and determined, Alexander was still a black man thriving in 19th century America. Despite his experience, he was repeatedly denied admission into the local society of doctors. He tried to gain entry to the Medical Society of DC but again was denied. In response to the racism, Alexander and two other Black doctors formed the National Medical Society. Alexander was determined not to let discrimination impede the progress of young Black doctors.On his death in 1890, Alexander was recognized for his service to the United States and to Black community. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetary.