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£90m University of Glasgow building named after American abolitionist and medic

University of Glasgow

A new learning and teaching facility at the University of Glasgow has been named after James McCune Smith, the first African American to receive a medical degree when he graduated from the university with an MD in 1837.

The James McCune Smith Learning Hub will open in the next academic year 2019-20 and is the first building to be delivered through the university’s £1 billion campus development programme.

The new facility will provide learning and teaching space for over 2,500 students and will include flexible learning spaces and technology-enabled teaching resources.

This announcement comes after the University of Glasgow published a comprehensive report on September 16, 2018 detailing the institution’s historical links with racial slavery, which includes a programme of reparative justice.

James McCune Smith was born into slavery in 1813, however was freed by New York State's Emancipation Act on July 4, 1827.

Recognised as being intellectually gifted, McCune Smith attended the African Free School in Manhattan where his academic achievements led him to apply to several American universities.

After being denied entry to all due to his race, McCune Smith applied for – and was accepted by – the University of Glasgow’s medical school.

McCune Smith went on to gain three qualifications from the University of Glasgow - a bachelor's degree in 1835, a master’s degree in 1836, and his medical doctorate in 1837.

Upon returning to New York McCune Smith set up medical practice in lower Manhattan and grew to be recognised as a prominent figure in the New York black community and a leading intellectual.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “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.

“This is also consistent with the actions agreed in a recent report to provide reparative justice due to the University’s historical links with racial slavery, and emphasises our commitment to that programme."

 

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