Historians have largely ignored the existence of black hospitals in their accounts of America's history, particularly American medical history. When historically black hospitals are included in their writings, they are usually mentioned as an afterthought. These institutions have played an important role in the evolution of health care in the United States, and are an important part of our nation's "Black History". Black hospitals provided training opportunities for a variety of health care professionals-denied admission to white hospital training programs. They were a source of employment for local residents, and a catalyst for local economic and social development. On a local and national level, they created a sense of ethnic pride, achievement and hope. Perhaps their greatest contribution was the provision of clinical care for black patients who were either denied entry into white hospitals, or were relegated to separate, poorly staffed sections of white institutions. Black hospitals unlike black churches and historically black colleges did not benefit from the vision, foresight, political and economic support that might have sustained more of them as viable institutions during the turbulent changes in health care.
The Freedman's Bureau was a short-lived post Emancipation Federal Program (1865-1869), that focused on problems faced by former slaves as they migrated from rural areas to cities. Health was a major priority, and a number of southern infirmaries for former slaves were established. One of the most significant outcomes of this policy was the conversion of a military hospital to the Freedman's Hospital in Washington D.C. This hospital became a part of Howard University Medical School, and in 1975 was renamed Howard University Hospital.
This collection consists chiefly of letters received with reports, transcripts of testimony, congressional and executive documents, printed regulations governing the administration of the Hospital, annual reports, and comptroller reports. The records relate to the transfer of the hospital from the War Department to the Interior Department in 1874.