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Dr. Josephine English

Community leader and gynecologist Dr. Josephine English was born on December 17, 1920 in Ontario, Virginia to Whittie, Sr. and Jennie English. She grew up in Englewood, New Jersey and received her B.A. degree from New York City’s Hunter College in 1939. English went on to earn her M.A. degree in psychology from New York University. She attended Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee and while there, became interested in obstetrics and gynecology. English graduated from medical school in 1949 and began working at a hospital in Manhattan.

In 1956, English moved to Brooklyn, and in 1958, she opened a women’s clinic in Bushwick. Over the years, she has delivered thousands of babies, including the daughter of former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and the six daughters of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. In 1979, English established the Adelphi Medical Center to provide better medical care to both men and women. She soon added a senior citizens' center. In 1981, she started the Up the Ladder Day Care Center and After School Program and a summer youth camp. Her work continued in 1982 when, in an effort to bring more of the arts to the community, she purchased a deserted church next to the Adelphi Medical Center and converted it into Brooklyn’s Paul Robeson Theater. In 1986, English became the first minority and the first woman to be awarded a license from the New York State Department of Health to develop a free-standing ambulatory surgical center.

Due to budget issues English self-funded many of her programs and has had to continuously fight foreclosure. The Brooklyn community stood behind English, and she has been honored with several awards, including the African Community Contribution Award and a Lucille Mason Rose Community Activist Award. In 1996, Brooklynites formed the Dr. Josephine English Foundation in order to honor English and to carry on her health and welfare initiatives.

Dr. English passed away on December 18, 2011 at the age of 91.

Dr. Josephine English was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 8, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.227

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/8/2007

Last Name

English

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Lincoln Early School

New York University

Hunter College

Meharry Medical College

Dwight Morrow High School

First Name

Josephine

Birth City, State, Country

Ontario

HM ID

ENG01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

U.S. Virgin Islands

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/17/1920

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

12/18/2011

Short Description

Community leader and gynecologist Dr. Josephine English (1920 - 2011 ) delivered thousands of babies, including the daughter of former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and the six daughters of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. She established the Adelphi Medical Center and Brooklyn's Paul Robeson Theatre.

Employment

Harlem Hospital Center

Adephi Medical Center

Paul Robeson Theater

Interfaith Medical Center

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Josephine English's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Josephine English lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Josephine English describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Josephine English describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Josephine English remembers her community in Englewood, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Josephine English describes her schooling in Englewood, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Josephine English remembers her early activities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Josephine English recalls discrimination at Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Josephine English recalls developing an interest in psychiatry while in college

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. Josephine English remembers Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. Josephine English recalls her medical internship at the Harlem Hospital in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Josephine English recalls working at the Harlem Hospital in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Josephine English talks about New York City's Harlem community

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Josephine English recalls the health problems in the Harlem community

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Josephine English describes her gynecological practice

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Josephine English talks about practicing medicine in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Josephine English describes the Adelphi Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Josephine English describes her community service in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Josephine English recalls founding the Paul Robeson Theatre in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Josephine English describes the history of the Paul Robeson Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Josephine English describes New York City's black medical community

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Josephine English talks about New York City's black theater community

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Josephine English describes the Dr. Josephine English Foundation, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Josephine English reflects upon the importance of the theater

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Josephine English reflects upon her life

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Josephine English talks about the closure of the Adelphi Medical Center

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Josephine English reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. Josephine English narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

1$8

DATitle
Dr. Josephine English recalls working at the Harlem Hospital in New York City
Dr. Josephine English recalls founding the Paul Robeson Theatre in Brooklyn, New York
Transcript
So we're talking about Harlem Hospital [Harlem Hospital Center, New York, New York] when you arrived there in about 1949?$$Um-hm, 1949 (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And you were saying that Harlem Hospital at that time, didn't--sort of gained its black doctors one by one.$$Yes, they did.$$Can you just tell us a little bit about that and about where the hospital is going now?$$Yes, it seems impossible that a hospital would just be accepting black physicians. And that's when they had Aubre Maynard [Aubre de Lambert Maynard]. He was one of the first black physicians. He became an outstanding surgeon. They were the first ones to come into Harlem Hospital.$$Can you repeat his name for me?$$Maynard, Aubre Maynard.$$And (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) He became an outstanding surgeon. At the time that Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] got stabbed, they called him in. He became an outstanding surgeon. And to think that now, that it became totally black and that now it's going to go through another episode which has already started of whites.$$What's happening now with Harlem Hospital?$$Well, they're building, they're building a new hospital, state-of-the-arts and it's gonna be totally white. It's gonna be a top-notch hospital under Columbia Presbyterian [New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, New York].$$Under Columbia Presbyterian?$$Yes.$$And does that have anything to do with the changing, the gentrification of Harlem [New York, New York]?$$That has to do with it. That's the whole thing. If you're gonna change a population, you're gonna change your hospital. And you're not gonna have a second rate hospital that nobody wants to go to. You're gonna have a top hospital.$$And how quality--what was the quality of Harlem Hospital like when you arrived? Was it a top quality hospital (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) When I first came here--$$--at the--in 1950?$$Yeah, its quality was excellent because the whites were just being replaced by the blacks. And they took outstanding black physicians.$$And by what year--just give me an approximate, would you say that Harlem Hospital became an all-black hospital?$$I would say it took about five years.$$So by 1955, 1960, Harlem Hospital was majority black.$$Totally.$$And over the years has the reputation of Harlem Hospital gone down?$$It has gone down.$$And why has that happened?$$Because they took away the good, white physicians and they had only blacks. They took away a lot of money, a lot of the research money, a lot of the money for supplies. You know how to get hospitals to get lower. Everything gets lowered. The staffing is lowered, the scale of employment, of types of employment is lowered. It's very easy. So now, it's going in the other direction because it's gonna be a top-rank hospital again.$$And those doctors--it's not gonna be predominantly black. Those doctors are gonna be (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, they're not gonna be black--$$--pushed out.$$--by no means. And the city is gonna put money in the building. The city is gonna put up a top-notch hospital.$How did you get into the theater business?$$Because I was over there at Fort Greene [Brooklyn, New York] at the building where I had the daycare, and there was a church there owned by the Catholics. And they never helped me, but they saw the work I was doing. So when they got ready to leave, they offered the, the church. And that's where I made the theater.$$And did you have that idea to make a theater already?$$Yes, but I didn't have a facility. And they gave me the--and it was very easy. We started the theater with the pews, and then we built it up and built, built--and we haven't done what we should have done because we've been there twenty-six years. And we still have not renovated the way we should.$$And why not?$$Because we never got any funding or any recognition from the city. What we did, we did on our own, but we need, we needed money. And BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York] is around the corner, and they had a $600 million. They never gave us a penny. But we continued, and now, I think we got--they're going to give us something, but up to this date, we never got anything.$$What kind of theater is the Paul Robeson Theatre [Brooklyn, New York]?$$It's a general community theater. In other words, we do plays, all kinds of plays. We do--people can come in with their play and production and put it on. We help them put it on. We do our own productions. We've done over a hundred different plays since we've been there.$$Can you name a few of the plays that you've done?$$Oh, yes.$$Those that are particularly memorable?$$We do--we've done quite a few of [HistoryMaker] Ntozake Shange's plays. In fact, we just did 'Colored Girls' ['For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow Is Enuf,' Ntozake Shange] and we've done the popular black writers. We're one of the few theaters to do great works of black artists.$$Are you an all-black theater?$$Am I what?$$Are you an all-black theater?$$Yes, we are all black. And we hope to remain all black, in terms of management because around us, they're building--they have what, six theaters that they're putting up, the city's putting up. And they're not gearing, geared to the black audience, either financially or otherwise. In other words, they charge a lot of money. BAM, you have to have money to go there, sixty-five dollars, and--we are community. We charge twenty, twenty-five dollars. We're glad to--we do the school kids. We have a lot of school kids who come to the theater. So we brought the theater on the community level. But the community has no money, and they have not fought for the theater.$$Well, what is the importance of theater to the community?$$It's very important because as I said, in terms of the children alone, it's fantastic because we've done the play, 'The Meeting' [Jeff Stetson] which is with Malcolm [Malcolm X]--Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.], and the kids love it. And we taught them a lot about black heroes that they otherwise would not know about. It's really a help to the community. We provide good entertain- clean entertainment for them and for the kids, the community, church and so forth.