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Dr. Rachel Keith

Detroit physician Rachel B. Keith was born Rachel Hannah Celestine Boone on May 30, 1924, in Monrovia, Liberia; her parents, Reverends Clinton C. and Rachel Tharps Boone, were Baptist medical missionaries. Keith’s grandfather, Reverend Lemuel Washington Boone, was a founding trustee of Shaw University. Keith came to the United States at age three and began her schooling at Richmond, Virginia’s Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School; she graduated from Armstrong High School in 1938, at age thirteen. That same year, Keith lost her mother and moved in with her aunt, Dr. Bessie B. Tharps, in Rhode Island. Keith graduated second in her class from Houghton College in upstate New York in 1943; she completed her medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine in 1949.

In 1949, Keith was featured in The Boston Globe for achieving the highest score to that date on a medical school test. One-time president of the Blackwell Society, Keith was also featured in Look Magazine’s 1949 story about Boston University’s home medical service. After completing her internship at Harlem Hospital, Keith served at Brooklyn’s Coney Island Hospital before moving to Detroit in 1951. Keith completed a two-year residency in internal medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital in 1953; in 1954, she joined the staff at Detroit Memorial Hospital and entered private practice with Dr. Thomas Batchelor in Conant Gardens. Keith’s hospital affiliations included Burton Mercy Hospital and Sinai Hospital; she was also a member of the Wayne County Medical Society, Michigan State Medical Society, American Medical Association, Detroit Medical Society, Detroit Gastroenterological Society, and the National Medical Association.

Active in the NAACP and the Links, Keith held memberships in the American Leprosy Mission; the Detroit Science Center; and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Keith also served on the Michigan Board of Medicine from 1986 to 1993. Keith and her husband, Judge Damon Keith, raised three daughters.

Keith passed away on Thursday, January 4, 2007.

Accession Number

A2005.023

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/21/2005

Last Name

Keith

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Hannah Celestine

Occupation
Schools

James H. Blackwell School

Houghton College

Brown University

Armstrong High School

Boston University School of Medicine

First Name

Rachel

Birth City, State, Country

Monrovia

HM ID

KEI02

Favorite Season

Fall

Favorite Vacation Destination

Florida

Favorite Quote

That's Alright.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/30/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

Liberia

Favorite Food

Cobbler (Peach)

Death Date

1/4/2007

Short Description

Physician Dr. Rachel Keith (1924 - 2007 ) worked in Burton Mercy Hospital and Sinai Hospital in the Detroit area, as well as keeping her own private practice.

Employment

Harlem Hospital Center

Detroit Receiving Hospital

Coney Island Hospital

Herman Kiefer Hospital

Detroit Memorial Hospital

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303684">Tape: 1 Slating of Dr. Rachel Keith's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303685">Tape: 1 Dr. Rachel Keith lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303686">Tape: 1 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303687">Tape: 1 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303688">Tape: 1 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her mother's childhood and education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303689">Tape: 1 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her father's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303690">Tape: 1 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her father's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303691">Tape: 1 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her father's books</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303692">Tape: 1 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her parents' personalities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303693">Tape: 2 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls her memories of Liberia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303694">Tape: 2 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls her piano lessons as a girl</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303695">Tape: 2 Dr. Rachel Keith describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303696">Tape: 2 Dr. Rachel Keith remembers the Great Depression</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303697">Tape: 2 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her education and decision to study medicine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303698">Tape: 2 Dr. Rachel Keith remembers her teachers at Armstrong High School in Richmond, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303699">Tape: 2 Dr. Rachel Keith remembers her parents' deaths and moving to Rhode Island</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303700">Tape: 3 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls her education at Cranston High School and Houghton University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303701">Tape: 3 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her musical studies at Houghton College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303702">Tape: 3 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her decision to study medicine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303703">Tape: 3 Dr. Rachel Keith talks about women in medical school during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303704">Tape: 3 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her courses at Boston University School of Medicine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303705">Tape: 3 Dr. Rachel Keith describes the Home Medical Service program at Boston University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303706">Tape: 3 Dr. Rachel Keith remembers being photographed by Look magazine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303707">Tape: 4 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls her professors at Boston University School of Medicine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303708">Tape: 4 Dr. Rachel Keith remembers interning at New York City's Harlem Hospital Center</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303709">Tape: 4 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls her first impressions of Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303710">Tape: 4 Dr. Rachel Keith describes how she met her husband, HistoryMaker Damon J. Keith</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303711">Tape: 4 Dr. Rachel Keith describes establishing her private practice</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303712">Tape: 4 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls segregation in the medical field during the 1950s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303713">Tape: 5 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls the desegregation of Detroit hospitals</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303714">Tape: 5 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls hearing HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson speak</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303715">Tape: 5 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her work with the Detroit chapter of the NAACP</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303716">Tape: 5 Dr. Rachel Keith describes health issues that impact the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303717">Tape: 5 Dr. Rachel Keith recalls discrimination in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303718">Tape: 5 Dr. Rachel Keith reflects upon her life.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303719">Tape: 5 Dr. Rachel Keith reflects upon issues with patients self-medicating</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303720">Tape: 5 Dr. Rachel Keith reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303721">Tape: 6 Dr. Rachel Keith describes her committee positions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303722">Tape: 6 Dr. Rachel Keith shares her thoughts on socialized medicine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303723">Tape: 6 Dr. Rachel Keith talks about her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303724">Tape: 6 Dr. Rachel Keith describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303725">Tape: 6 Dr. Rachel Keith narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303726">Tape: 6 Dr. Rachel Keith narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Dr. Rachel Keith describes her courses at Boston University School of Medicine
Dr. Rachel Keith describes her work with the Detroit chapter of the NAACP
Transcript
It was difficult in medical school [Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts], it was not easy; none of this was easy. I tell you, this pioneering was very difficult. And I, I was always struggling to keep in the upper third of that class. You know, it was just something which I had to do, and I was driven to do. And so much so, that at the commencement, my classmates in the row ahead of me all turned around and said, "Congratulations, Dr. Boone [HistoryMaker Dr. Rachel Keith]," because they knew how hard I had been working. (Laughter) But they were still teasing, they were still teasing. But I had some good professors in medical school. I remember Alice Marston [ph.], who taught us biology. She was a masculine looking woman, and she was always on the side of the females. "You'd better get this down. This is what you should know." And my anatomy teacher, Dr. Connell [Jay Leroy Connell (ph.)], I'll never forget him. Because when we were dissecting our cadaver that we had named Charlie--there were four of us females, and we were on the stomach. And this man had died of cancer of the stomach. And we could not dissect the anatomy of those blood vessels, because they were all mixed up with the cancer. And so, one of the girls at our table started crying. And Dr. Connell came over and he said, "Don't ever cry." He said, "That means that you have self-pity for yourself." He said, "Always be strong and believe that you can do it." (Laughter) And I never forgot him for saying that, you know. So we got through, but we had to learn that anatomy from a book, and not from a cadaver. The sophomore year was difficult like the others. That's the time when you have these heavy textbooks that you have to carry around, and do a lot of reading. But the junior and senior years were the ones that you really feel like you're beginning to be a doctor. That's when you put a white jacket on and you go in and you speak to patients, and they may or may not think that you're a doctor.$Now, you're a lifelong member of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], is that right (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh yes.$$And you say you've seen a lot of things change here. I know one of the old stories about Detroit [Michigan] is the story about Dr. Ossian Sweet, whose home was invaded, I think, as he tried to move into it.$$Oh, yes, yes. And that was one of the reasons for forming an NAACP chapter here. And my husband [HistoryMaker Damon J. Keith] and Arthur Johnson were a part of the first men's committee for the NAACP. And I was a member of the women's committee, and for a few years I was the chairman of the hospitality committee of the women's committee. And every year I would meet with the women at the committee meetings, and we would plan how we would handle the hospitality for the Fight for Freedom Dinner [Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner]. Because, as you recall, the Fight for Freedom Dinner grew to be quite large.$$From what I understand. Now, Detroiters have been telling me this for two or three years, I didn't know it at first. But it's the largest NAACP dinner, and quite possibly the largest dinner in the country, occupying three adjoining halls with three podiums going on simultaneously, right?$$Yes, ten thousand attendees. And The New York Times wrote it up as the city that came to dinner. And they had a picture of the auditorium with all the people there, a huge crowd. We would have a VIP reception before the dinner, and then the dais guests would parade in, and they had sections of blue, red, green, and yellow. And people used to vie to get seats in the blue section, because they knew that's where the speakers were. So, if you were in the blue section, you had the better seats in the house. But we had it divided up into the dais committee, a committee to take care of visiting dignitaries, and several other sub-committees. But I did chair that for at least nine or ten years. And of course, I became a life member of the NAACP. And of course, I got this by proxy, because my husband was so active in the NAACP that I couldn't miss.$$It was quite an undertaking, to be the chair of. From what I understand, it was the largest of its kind of dinner in the country. So--$$Well, I was only chair of the sub-committee, the sub-committee; I wasn't chair of the whole thing. They do have co-chairs, they have two men who are co-chairs. Then now, they have a woman who is chair of the women's committee.