Under the Jim Crow segregation system, many hospitals and white doctors in the deep South refused to admit or treat Black patients, no matter how ill or injured they were. And of those few willing to care for African-Americans, fewer still were willing to risk the wrath of the White Citizens Council and Ku Klux Klan by treating civil rights workers. It often took hours to get ill or wounded Movement activists to a hospital or to a doctor who would treat them.
Growing out of the Medical Committee for Civil Rights which organized the medical contingent of the March on Washington in 1963, the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) was formed in June of 1964 to support Freedom Summer. More than 100 northern doctors, nurses, psychologists, and other health professionals, Black and white came to Mississippi. Though MCHR volunteers were not licensed to practice professionally in Mississippi, they could offer emergency first-aid anywhere and anytime to civil rights workers, community activists, and summer volunteers. Working without pay, they cared for wounded protesters and victims of police and Klan violence, assisted the ill, visited jailed demonstrators, and provided a medical presence in Black communities, some of which had never seen a doctor. They established and staffed health information and pre-natal programs in many Black communities. Appalled at the separate and unequal care provided to Blacks by Mississippi's segregated system, they soon involved themselves in political struggles to open up and improve Mississippi's health care system for all.
After Freedom Summer, MCHR continued working in Mississippi and expanded its operations into Alabama and Louisiana. Like battlefield medics, with their canvas medicine-bags marked with a red cross slung over their shoulder, they were easy to spot in Selma, on the March to Montgomery, and in the hellish violence of Bogalusa. They marched side by side with the protesters, set up their emergency clinics in Black churches, taught community health and pre-natal classes, and fought the white health system to end its segregationist policies. And just like the organizers in SNCC, SCLC, and CORE, the courageous sisters and brothers of the MCHR were targets for arrest and Klan violence.
This 9 page orientation manual was issued to MCHR volunteers coming South in 1966.]
The MCHR manual is presented in Adobe Acrobat® PDF format.