Learn more about Dr. James Still
The theme of Black History Month for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness. A great way to kick it off is with the legendary story of Dr. James Still.
By Becky FreeFebruary 1, 2022
This year’s theme for Black History Month is Black Health and Wellness exploring Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine as well as midwives and herbalists throughout the African Diaspora. There is no better way to celebrate the start of Black History Month in 2022 than by recognizing Dr. James Still.
Dr. James Still was a medical doctor and herbalist born in 1812 in Indian Mills, Burlington County, New Jersey.
“James Still was perhaps the most gifted physician in South Jersey during the nineteenth century. . . who received no more than six months of traditional schooling, and was self-taught in both medical knowledge and practice. . . Dr. Still overcame poverty and racial animus to become one of the wealthiest men in South Jersey during his lifetime.” – Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still, republished in 2015 by the South Jersey Culture and History Center.
When James was a small child he witnessed a doctor vaccinating his siblings and that experience awakened a deep desire to help people recover from illness by becoming a doctor. Despite the fact that his racial and financial status prevented him from attending medical school, he continued to gain medical knowledge and worked as an herbalist and doctor for over forty years.
Still became well known for his “cough balm” created from plants and herbs grown on his farm. Two Philadelphia pharmacists began buying all of the cough balm he could supply. With that money he was able to buy a small house and begin making house-calls to patients. Local doctors challenged his medical credentials so Still consulted a local attorney and learned that he was safe from legal action as long as he continued to never claim to be an MD, nor ask for a fee for his services. Reference
There is so much to learn about Dr. James Still and his brother William Still who was an Underground Railroad Station Agent in Philadelphia. Here are a few suggestions:
Read Dr. James Still’s autobiography, Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still, first published in 1877 by the J.B. Lippincott Company and then republished in 2015 by the South Jersey Culture and History Center. Purchase the book here.
Visit the Dr. James Still Historic Office and Education Center at 210 Medford-Mt. Holly Road in Medford, NJ. Donate to support the continued improvement of the education center and programming to keep Dr. James Still’s legacy alive.
Watch the Underground Railroad: The William Still Story. This PBS documentary tells the incredible story of William who risked his life helping runaway slaves find freedom.
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