More than six decades after Marion Hood was rejected by Emory University medical school, he received another letter from the school. This time it was an apology for refusing to admit him into his medical program because he was black.
“Your rejection letter is a grim reminder that generations of talented young men and women have been denied educational opportunities because of their race, and our society has been denied its full potential,” said the letter, which was sent in March and signed by Vikas P. Sukhatme, Dean of Medicine, Emory University. “An apology does not negate our actions. It is an acknowledgment of the pain that has been caused by our school and an opportunity for us to share our regrets directly with you.
As part of its Juneteenth lineup, Emory’s School of Medicine apologized to Dr Hood, now 83, on Wednesday at a virtual event for students, faculty and staff.
“In 1959, Marion Hood received a rejection letter for no other reason than the fact that he was black. To those who understand the history of our country, this should come as no surprise,” said the president of University, Gregory L. Fenves, at the event. “This individual and this letter clearly show the systematic injustice of those times and the legacy with which Emory still counts.”
Dr Hood decided to pursue medicine after accompanying his mother, who was a nurse, to the doctor.
At Wednesday’s event, he recounted how they were ushered into the practice through the back door of the building and waited in a room with no furniture, only cases of Coca-Cola to sit on. They waited until the last person was seen, then the doctor saw Dr. Hood’s mother.
“I was furious,” said Dr Hood. “I figured if I was a doctor, my mom and the like wouldn’t have to come in the back door, or wait that long just to be seen.”
Dr. Hood eventually studied medicine at Loyola University in Chicago and worked as a gynecologist and obstetrician in Atlanta for a long time.
He decided to apply to Emory after graduating from Clark College, now known as Clark Atlanta University. At his graduation ceremony, Clark, a historically black university, awarded an honorary degree to a professor at Emory University.
Emory had not yet been disaggregated, and would not accept his first black student until 1963.
“I thought he could come to my school and get an honorary degree and I couldn’t set foot on his campus,” Dr. Hood said. “I didn’t think it was quite right.”
He had previously applied to Howard University and the Meharry School of Medicine in Nashville, then decided to apply to Emory. A week later, on August 5, 1959, he received a letter signed by the then director of admissions saying he was rejected.
“I am sorry to have to write to you that we are not allowed to consider a member of the black race for admission”, says the letter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “I wish we could help you.”
Dr Hood still has the framed letter in his basement where only his friends can see it.
He had it in his office, where he used it to remind new medical students “how far we’ve come, how far we need to go and how the cycle repeats.”