This week’s Chicago Black History Maker spotlight is Dr. Roscoe Conkling Giles.
Giles was born in 1890 in Albany, New York, but he’s known in Chicago for studying at Provident Hospital, which was founded and owned by African American Dr. Daniel Hale Williams.
At age 27, Giles became the first African American to lead a city health department when he became supervisor of the Chicago Health Department.
We spoke with Chicago’s Urban Historian Shermann ‘Dilla’ Thomas about how his contributions resonate today.
“Especially going on today with the pandemic there’s been a lot of trepidation about vaccines and health care in general, and one of the reasons why is because people of color don’t necessarily see themselves when they go to an office,” Thomas said. “Roscoe Conkling Giles is a prime example of being able to push through those stereotypes and prove that it’s possible to not only to enter into the medical field, but to succeed.”
Giles is also the first African American to earn a medical degree from Cornell University.
He died in 1970 in Chicago at age 79.