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Mon, 07.04.1864

Charles Roman, Doctor, and Activist born

Charles V. Roman

Charles Victor Roman was born on this date in 1864. He was a Black physician, professor, author, and activist.

Roman was born in Williamsport, PA, the son of James William Roman, a canal-boat owner, and Anne Walker McGuin, the daughter of a fugitive slave.  He spent much of his childhood in Ontario, a knee injury that resulted in the amputation of his right leg. He graduated from Hamilton Collegiate Institute in Ontario and in 1886 entered Meharry Medical College in Nashville.  Before entering Meharry, Roman taught briefly in the public schools of Trigg County, Kentucky, and in Tennessee. Roman graduated from Meharry in 1890 and received a Master of Arts in philosophy and history at Fisk University in Nashville.

He received postgraduate education at the Medical School of Chicago in 1899 and at the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital and Central London Nose, Throat, and Ear Hospital in England in 1904.  Paul Quinn College in Waco, TX, gave him honorary doctorates in 1904 as did Wilberforce University in Ohio, in 1911. From 1890 to 1893, he practiced medicine in Clarksville, TN. He practiced in Dallas from 1893 until 1904 when he became an instructor in the eye, ear, nose, and throat diseases at Meharry, where he remained for the rest of his life.  Roman taught medical history and ethics and became professor emeritus in 1931. He served as a special lecturer in philosophy at what is now Tennessee State University in Nashville and headed the Department of Health at Fisk University.

During World War I, Roman was a medical lecturer for the United States Army. He served as the fifth president of the National Medical Association from 1904 to 1905 and edited its publication, the Journal of the National Medical Association, from 1909 until 1919.  He worked as an associate editor of the National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race in 1919 and was a member of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the Southern Sociological Congress, the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he was a lay leader.

Roman authored a number of books and articles, including "Knowledge of History are Conducive to Racial Solidarity" (1911), "Science and Christian Ethics" (1913), "American Civilization and the Negro" (1916), and "Meharry Medical College: A History." His address "Racial Self-Respect and Racial Antagonism," delivered before the Southern Sociological Congress at Atlanta in 1913, received a widespread commendation in publications concerned with racial relations.

Through his writings and orations, Roman urged African Americans to support Black churches, retail establishments, medical facilities, banks, and schools.  He criticized racial prejudice, stressed the contributions of Blacks to American civilization, and maintained that "racial solidarity and not amalgamation is the desired and desirable goal of the American Negro.” Roman married Margaret Lee Voorhees of Columbia, TN, in 1891.

The first Black physician to receive training in both ophthalmology and otolaryngology, Charles V. Roman died of a heart attack on August 25, 1934, at the age of 70, in Nashville. He is buried at the Greenville Cemetery in that city.

To become a Doctor


The John Q. Adams Center for the
History of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
One Prince St.,
Alexandria, VA 22314-3357,

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