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Nothing about Homer G. Phillips Hospital came easily. Built to serve St. Louis's rapidly expanding African-American population, the grand new hospital opened its doors in 1937, toward the end of the Great Depression. "Homer G.," as many called it, joined a burgeoning group of black hospitals amid a national period of institutional segregation and strong racial prejudice nationwide.
When the beautiful, up-to-date hospital opened, it attracted more black residents than any other such program in the United States. Patients also flocked to the hospital, as did nursing students who found there excellent training, ready employment, and a boost into the middle class. For decades, the hospital thrived; by the 1950s, three-quarters of African-American babies in St. Louis were born at Homer G.
But the 1960s and 1970s brought less need for all-black hospitals, as faculty, residents, and patients were increasingly welcome in the many newly integrated institutions. Ever-tightening city budgets meant less money for the hospital, and in 1979, despite protests from the African-American community, HGPH closed. Years later, the venerated, long-vacant building came to life again as the Homer G. Phillips Senior Living Community.
Candace O'Connor draws upon contemporary newspaper articles, institutional records, and dozens of interviews with former staff members to create the first, full history of the Homer G. Phillips Hospital. She also brings new facts and insights into the life and mysterious murder (still an unsolved case) of the hospital's namesake, a pioneering Black attorney and civil rights activist who led the effort to build the sorely needed medical facility in the Ville neighborhood.
Candace O'Connor is a freelance journalist and the author of 14 books, including histories of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Central West End, as well as A Song of Faith and Hope: The Life of Frankie Muse Freeman. She also wrote and co-produced a PBS documentary, Oh Freedom After While: The Missouri Sharecropper Protest of 1939, which won a regional Emmy award. She lives in St. Louis with her husband.
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