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African American Resources at Historical Collections

Collection highlights for locating historical information on Black students, staff, and faculty members at Emory as well as the broader Emory community.


In honor of Black History Month, the purpose of this LibGuide is to highlight collections that contain information pertaining to and/or about Black students, staff, and faculty members at Emory as well as the broader Emory community that can be found in Historical Collections of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library.  

The majority of our holdings are available in-person only. 

Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing Records, 1906-2018

The School of Nursing is largely administrative in nature. Information pertaining to Black students, faculty etc can be found with patience and diligent research. The list below constitutes some areas where information can be found but does not necessarily represent the full extent of SON holdings. 

  • Series VI, Photographs, 1907-1989, particular attention to Class Photos 

  • Series VII, Publications and Printed Materials, 1928-2016, particular attention to newspaper clippings

1972 Class photo of Nursing student graduates including one African American male student named Bob Isom.


















1972 Class photo of graduates from the School of Nursing.


In 1972, Bob Isom, pictured as #12, was the first Black male student to graduate from Emory's School of Nursing. While serving in the United States Air Force as a medical technologist, a physician-friend encouraged him to pursue a degree at Emory University. After graduation, Isom went to the University of California-San Francisco where he earned his nurse practitioner degree then a master's degree in public health at University of California-Berkeley. He served as director of the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program of Contra Costa County's public health department for 27 years.  Source: 2001 Emory Medicine Magazine feature titled "Racially Motivated."

Georgia Nursing Oral History Project, 1986-1992

A collection of oral history interviews with Georgia nurses conducted between 1986-1992. Of the 33 interviews, nine were retired Black nurses who share their experiences in the field of nursing but also the racism they encountered and navigating segregated facilities. The project was made possible by researchers at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.  

Transcripts and audio records are available. Additionally, there exists a paper titled “Voices from the Past: Retired Black Nurses from Georgia Reminisce: The Effect of Race on Education and Practice” contextualizing the nine oral histories. It can be found in Box 81, Folder 3 of the School of Nursing records.   

Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library Biographical Files, 1918-2018

Organized by last name, this collection is a great starting point for locating individuals of the Emory community, from Emory faculty, physicians, alumni, to founding members of the Emory School of Medicine. File size varies for each individual and is composed primarily of newspaper clippings, publications, and other material either created by that individual or written about them. 

Biographical files are arranged alphabetically by last name of the individual.

Dr. Hamilton Holmes, seated, in a white lab coat.























Dr. Hamilton Holmes (pictured above) was the first Black student to graduate from Emory's School of Medicine in 1963. He later became an orthopedic surgeon and eventually medical director of Grady Memorial Hospital. The School of Medicine hosts an annual lecture series named after him.

Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library Subject Files, 1858-1994

This collection contains information specific to Atlanta-area hospitals and medical centers. Similar to the Biographical Files, file size varies for each hospital or medical center. 

Sub-groupings for this collection are Atlanta clinics, Atlanta Hospitals and Medical Centers, Georgia Physicians, and Other Subject Files.

Image of Black and white nursing students in scrubs with the newspaper headline title An Institution Dies, in reference to the end of the Grady hospital nursing program




















Grady Memorial Hospital, a public hospital in Atlanta and Level I trauma center. Historically a segregated hospital with two units for treating white and Black patients. Grady was also home to a robust nurse training program for Black nurses.