When Dr. Robert Smith was growing up in his hometown of Jackson, Miss., it was hard for most of the state’s residents to get high-quality health care.
For poor Blacks, it was even harder. Health services were almost non-existent in rural parts of the nearly 50-percent Black state. In cities with hospitals, access for Blacks was limited to Black wings or wards with limited services. Black people, like Smith, who aspired to become licensed health care providers — nurses, dentists and physicians — were required by state law to go to institutions outside the state, despite the state maintaining a medical and nursing school for White students.