On this dayNov 07, 1931

Two Black Women Die After Segregated Georgia Hospital Refuses Care

On November 7, 1931, Dean Juliette Derricotte of Fisk University in Nashville was driving three students to her parents’ home in Atlanta when a Model T driven by an older white man suddenly swerved and struck Ms. Derricotte’s car, overturning it into a ditch. The white driver stopped to yell at the black occupants of Ms. Derricotte’s car for damaging his own vehicle, then left the scene without rendering any aid. When others tried to get care for the injured black riders, nearby Hamilton Memorial Hospital in Dalton, Georgia -- a segregated facility -- refused to admit African American patients. Instead, Ms. Derricotte and the three students were treated by a white doctor at his office in Dalton. Though Ms. Derricotte and one of the students, Nina Johnson, were critically injured, they were afterward left to recuperate in the home of a local African American woman.

Six hours after the accident, one of the less seriously injured students was able to reach a Chattanooga hospital by phone, and arrangements were made to transport Ms. Derricotte and Ms. Johnson the 35 miles to that facility. However, the delay proved fatal: Ms. Derricotte died on her way to the hospital, at age 34, and Ms. Johnson died the next day.

The Committee on Interracial Cooperation opened an investigation into the incident, and Walter White, secretary of the New York-based NAACP, traveled south in December 1931 to learn more. He later concluded, “The barbarity of race segregation in the South is shown in all its brutal ugliness by the willingness to let cultured, respected, and leading colored women die for lack of hospital facilities which are available to any white person no matter how low in social scale.”

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