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Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony From Left: Dr Stephen Mullen, Historian and co-author of the Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow report; Graham Campbell, a Glasgow City Council councillor and an activist for African-Caribbean issues in Scotland; Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli; Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Susan Aitken; Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, a leading civil rights and equality campaigner. Photo courtesy University of Glasgow.

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University of Glasgow names building after James McCune Smith
The University will honor the first African-American to receive a Medical Degree. McCune Smith graduated from the University of Glasgow with an MD in 1837
Published on October 8, 2018

James McCune Smith James McCune Smith. Image courtesy University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow, Scotland, is honoring the American abolitionist and medic, James McCune Smith, by naming a new building on campus as the 'James McCune Smith Learning Hub'. McCune Smith graduated from the University with a medical degree in 1837, becoming the first African-American to receive an MD.

McCune Smith was born into slavery in New York in 1813, but was later freed by New York State's Emancipation Act on July 4, 1827. He attended the African Free School in Manhattan, and was recognized as being intellectually gifted. Despite applying to a number of American universities, he was denied entry to all on the basis of his race. McCune Smith then applied to attend the University of Glasgow, being accepted to the University's Medical School and going on to gain three qualifications; a bachelor's degree in 1835, a master’s degree in 1836, and his medical doctorate in 1837. Upon returning to the United States, he became a leading intellectual figure and a prominent figure within New York's African American community.

Today (October 8), a special ceremony took place to lay the foundation stone at the site of the newly named James McCune Smith Learning Hub, coming shortly after the University of Glasgow published a report detailing the institution's historical links with racial slavery, which includes a programme of reparative justice.

Among those attending the ceremony were Dr Stephen Mullen, a Historian and co-author of the Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow report; Councillor Graham Campbell and Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, who were external advisers to the report; Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli; and Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Susan Aitken

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli said that "James McCune Smith was truly a pioneer, not only becoming the first African American to gain a medical degree, but also one of the leading intellectuals of his time ... The University of Glasgow is proud of our association with his legacy and it is fitting that we honour it in the naming of this building. The new James McCune Smith Learning Hub will revolutionise how we deliver learning and teaching support and provide a world-class facility for generations of future students from around the world."

The new building will provide learning and teaching space for over 2,500 students, and will open in the next academic year 2019/20.

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