Fonds P226 - Charles R. Drew fonds

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Charles R. Drew fonds

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12 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

Charles Drew, Sr. was born on June 3, 1904, in Washington, D.C.

He was a pioneering blood plasma scientist, surgeon, and teacher. He graduated from McGill University Medical School in Montreal (Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery, 1933), ranking second in a class of 137. During a two-year fellowship at Columbia University's medical school (1938–1940), he researched blood banking, setting up Presbyterian Hospital's first blood bank. He became the first African American to receive the Doctor of Science degree. Drew served as medical director of the Blood for Britain Project in 1940 and a 1941 American Red Cross pilot project involving the mass production of dried plasma. Drew's work proved pivotal to the success of the Red Cross's blood-collection program, a major life-saving agent during World War II. In 1941, he became chairman of Howard University's department of surgery and chief surgeon at Freedmen's Hospital, where he worked tirelessly to build Howard's surgical residency program. Between 1941 and 1950, he trained more than half of the black surgeons certified by the American Board of Surgery. In 1944, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP for his work on the British and American projects. He was given an honorary Doctor of Science degree, first by Virginia State College in 1945 and then by Amherst in 1947. During the war years, Drew had spoken out against the Red Cross's blood segregation policy. When he died at the age of forty-five after an auto accident in North Carolina, a legend sprang up that he had bled to death after being turned away from a whites-only hospital. Although the legend was false, persisting medical discrimination against African Americans perpetuated it. Throughout his career, Drew was committed to making medical care and training available to citizens of all races and economic levels. In 1981, the United States Postal Service issued a 35¢ postage stamp in its Great Americans series to honor Drew.

In 1939, he married Minnie Lenore "Nanny" Robbins (1911–1992), a professor of home economics at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. He died on April 1, 1950, in Burlington, Alamance County, North Carolina.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of textual records and artifacts related to surgeon and researcher Dr. Charles R. Drew. It contains letters, artifacts, and a yearbook from Drew's time as a student at McGill University, including his notable achievements as a student athlete. These items include medals, a track meet program, an athletic shirt, and a yearbook. The fonds also contains invitations, pamphlets, and other ephemera related to tributes and honors awarded to Drew, including printed testimonials and materials associated with schools, lectures, and institutions named after him, such as the Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School. These tributes and honors primarily recognize his contributions to medical science, but also encompass the program from his induction into the McGill Athletics Hall of Fame. Two letters in the fonds addressed to Drew's sister and his wife reflect on his accomplishments and include reminiscences from friends. Additionally, the fonds comprises five reprints of articles authored by Drew and two items concerning his career at Howard University and the Freedman's Hospital, including an outline for gathering a patient's medical history.

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The majority of the materials in the fonds were donated by the Drew family. Two of the letters were acquired from Second Story Books.


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  • English

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Items can be requested for consultation through the Library Catalogue or by email at Advance notice is recommended.

Finding aids

Associated materials

Several of Drew’s medical school textbooks were also donated and can be found in the McGill library catalogue.

The Charles R. Drew Papers are held at Howard University, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Manuscript Division ("DREW, Charles" (2015). Manuscript Division Finding Aids. 63.

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  • Box: O-226-01