On this dayNov 07, 1931

Two Black Women Die After Segregated Georgia Hospital Refuses Care

Fisk University Special Collections

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

Six hours after the accident, one of the other students who sustained less serious injuries was able to reach a Chattanooga hospital by phone, and arrangements were made to transport Dean Derricotte and Ms. Johnson to that facility, which was 35 miles away. However, the delay proved fatal: Dean 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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