Course Unit | Session 8: A Changing Social Order: WWII, Hill-Burton, and the Southern Regional Plan

Session 8: A Changing Social Order: WWII, Hill-Burton, and the Southern Regional Plan


This session will examine the impact of WW II on Black health professionals’ efforts to racially integrate the military and institutions essential to their professional work. The forces of change will be examined against the forces of resistance, exemplified in the Hill-Burton hospital construction program and the “Regional Plan” which reinforced segregation in medical care and health professions education.  


Required readings:

Edward Beardsley. Chapter 7, “The Federal Rescue of Southern Health Programs, 1933-1955.” In: A History of Neglect, pp. 173-185.

W. Montague Cobb. Progress and Portents. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1948, pp. 31-47.

Clifton Dummett and Lois Dummett. Dental Education at Meharry Medical College: Origin and Odyssey (Nashville, Tennessee: Meharry Medical College, 1992), pp. 70-72; 81-83, 91, 118-125.

Mabel Staupers. Chapter 5, “Integration into the Military Services.” In: No Time for Prejudice, pp. 97-121. 


1. What steps were taken by African American physicians, dentists and nurses to participate fully as members of the military services in World War II?

2. What programs were implemented during WWII that improved access to health care for African Americans, especially those who were in active duty and their family members?

3. What national organizations were most active in advocating for the racial integration of medicine, dentistry and nursing? How did they pursue this agenda?

4. Did the NACGN use passage of federal legislation to advance their goal for the racial integration of nursing?  If so, how?  If so, was the organization successful?

5. Which health professional group was out front in the effort to racially integrate their profession?

6. How did the Hill-Burton Act that provided funds to build hospitals help and hinder the effort to racially integrate hospitals?

7. What was the “Regional Plan”?  Was it designed to foster or hinder the racial integration of medical and dental education?  Why was nursing education not included in the “Regional Plan”?