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Without Concealment, Without Compromise

Without Concealment, Without Compromise

The Courageous Lives of Black Civil War Surgeons

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Jill L. Newmark


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
312 pages, 6 x 9, 26 illustrations

Engaging the Civil War


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About the Book

Advancing the cause of racial equality while saving lives

Of some twelve thousand Union Civil War surgeons, only fourteen were Black men. This book is the first-ever comprehensive exploration of their lives and service. Jill L. Newmark’s outstanding research uncovers stories hidden for more than 150 years, illuminating the unique experiences of proud, patriotic men who fought racism and discrimination to attend medical school and serve with the U.S. military. Their efforts and actions influenced societal change and forged new pathways for African Americans.
Individual biographies bring to light Alexander T. Augusta, who challenged discriminatory laws; William P. Powell Jr., who pursued a military pension for twenty-five years; Anderson R. Abbott, a friend of Elizabeth Keckley’s; John van Surly DeGrasse, the only Black surgeon to serve on the battlefield; John H. Rapier Jr., an international traveler; Richard H. Greene, the only Black surgeon known to have served in the Navy; Willis R. Revels, a preacher; Benjamin A. Boseman, a politician and postmaster; and Charles B. Purvis, who taught at Howard University. Information was limited for five other men, all of whom broke educational barriers by attending medical schools in the United States: Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed, William B. Ellis, Alpheus W. Tucker, Joseph Dennis Harris, and Charles H. Taylor.
Newmark presents all available information about the surgeons’ early lives, influences, education, Civil War service, and post-war experiences. Many of the stories overlap, as did the lives of the men. Each man, through his service as a surgeon during the war and his lifelong activism for freedom, justice, and equality, became a catalyst of change and a symbol of an emancipated future.


Jill L. Newmark, independent historian, is a former curator and exhibition specialist at the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Her exhibits include “Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine,” “Within These Walls: Contraband Hospital and the African Americans Who Served There,” and “Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons.” She has published articles in Prologue and Traces, as well as online in Circulating Now and Find more about her work at


“Far from a purely inspirational narrative, Jill L. Newmark aptly demonstrates the social, political, cultural, and personal struggles and indeed artistry of a group of pioneering Black soldier-surgeons, medical professionals, humanitarians, politicians, and entrepreneurs whose collective recognition is long overdue.”—Christopher M. Tinson, author of Radical Intellect: Liberator Magazine and Black Activism in the 1960s  

“Jill L. Newmark fills a significant gap in scholarship on Civil War medicine with her deeply researched and detailed exploration of the Black military surgeons of the Civil War. In each biographical exploration, Newmark reminds us of the important work that Black surgeons performed, not only in the medical tent, but in claiming and advancing the work of civil rights.”—Sarah Handley-Cousins, author of Bodies in Blue: Disability in the Civil War North

“A magnificent accomplishment! This volume reconstructs the lives of 14 Black Civil War–era physicians through meticulous and dogged archival research. These revelations about Black medical contributions to the war will inspire historians and their students for years to come.”—Margaret Humphreys, author of Intensely Human: The Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War  

“A monumental achievement, Without Concealment, Without Compromise is the first book on the Black physicians who served during the U.S. Civil War. Jill L. Newmark has meticulously researched city directories and census records, newspaper reports and pension applications, federal depositions and military documents to produce a breathtaking account of the Black doctors who wore Union blue. The portraits of these men are compelling. Without Concealment, Without Compromise is a must read for anyone interested in either the Civil War or the history of medicine.”—Jim Downs, author of Maladies of Empire: How Colonialism, Slavery, and War Transformed Medicine 

“Newmark’s book moves deftly among medical history, military history, social history, and religious history—in the process showing how some of those traditional boundaries vanish when examining an event like the Civil War. An important work for anyone interested in the African American experience during the conflict that ended slavery. The author resurrects the stories of dedicated medical professionals who broke through racial barriers and serve to inspire us still.”—Zachery A. Fry, author of A Republic in the Ranks: Loyalty and Dissent in the Army of the Potomac 

“This volume is easy to read, and the engrossing biographies leave the reader wanting to know more about the lives of these individuals. Despite their education and obvious medical knowledge and skills, they faced discrimination from the white surgeons, some of whom refused to serve with a Black surgeon. . . . [The book] keeps the reader engrossed in the lives of the surgeons.”—Peter J. D’Onofrio, The Journal of Civil War Medicine

“Seen from the perspective of a group biography of Black Civil War surgeons, the Civil War becomes not just a saga of divided families and a saga of how a people were liberated, but also about that oldest of American stories: how to become an individual by becoming an American—what Hector St. John de Crèvecour meant when he said an American was a new man. Ms. Newmark shows that these 14 surgeons pressed on because at stake was the fate of Black people, one inextricably tied to what these men as individuals were trying to accomplish for themselves. . . . The book’s splendid title, Without Concealment, signals a kind of deliverance—not only for its subjects but for our sense of who we are and what our nation stands for.”—Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun

“A unique, informative, and invaluable contribution to personal, professional, community, college, and university library American Civil War History/Biography collections, Without Concealment, Without Compromise: The Courageous Lives of Black Civil War Surgeons is enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of a number of illustrations, as well as thirty-four pages of notes, a fourteen page bibliography, a two page index of regiments, and a twelve page index.”—Library Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review

Without Concealment, Without Compromise: The Courageous Lives of Black Civil War Surgeons by independent historian Jill L. Newmark is an important contribution to our knowledge of racial, medical and military history. . . . Her book, more than 15 years in the making, is clearly a labor of love. She uses painstaking scholarship to track down hard to find biographical information from scant clues using the resources of many US and international libraries, special collections and archives.”—Susan Halas, Rare Book Monthly