Harvard University has announced that the Harvard Medical School's Holmes Society will be renamed after Black STEM pioneer William Augustus Hinton. Nearly a century ago, Hinton broke barriers by becoming the school's first Black tenured professor. Along his journey, he earned a Harvard Medical School degree in 1905 and became an expert in bacteriology and immunology. Most notably, Hinton developed a blood test diagnosing syphilis that the U.S. Public Health Service later implemented
The society is one of the five groups Harvard Medical School or Harvard School of Dental Medicine students are assigned to during their time at the university. This particular society was originally named after Oliver Wendell Holmes, a physician and a writer. Over the summer, students brought his racist past to light and gathered more than 1,000 signatures to remove his name from the society.
“Hinton wasn’t allowed to be a surgeon as he wanted to be, they wouldn’t take him on at Mass General,” Harvard Medical School student Jalen A. Benson said.
“So to see Harvard recognize contributions from people of color, especially Black people, means so much to me, because I can look and say I’m proud to be in Hinton, following the legacy of an exceptional provider, and especially an exceptional Black provider.”
In addition to honoring Hinton, Harvard University has announced that it would rename one of its buildings after the campus's first Black tenured professor, James I. Cash. Cash taught at the university from 1976 to 2003, earning tenure in 1985.
“Not only has he transcended many racial barriers in his own life, he also has propelled generations of Black students, faculty, and staff, as well as scores of business leaders, to successful and meaningful lives and careers,” Harvard Business School Nitin Nohria said.
“It is important that members of our community see themselves in our spaces and take pride in those whose names define our physical landscape. Cash House will reflect our deepest belief that leaders are individuals of not just great competence, but also outstanding and impeccable character.”
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