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  • Writer's picturePharm Grad

Happy Black History Month from PGWL!

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Since 1973, every U.S. President has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. The origins of Black History Month are from 1915, 50 years before the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery. Carter G. Woodson and Jeese E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASLNH), an organization founded to research and promote achievements of Black Americans and other peoples of African descent. This organization is now known as Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Despite facing countless obstacles and discrimination, Black pharmacists have made significant contributions to the field of pharmacy, and to the health and well-being of communities around the world.

Julia Pearl Hughes was a pioneer in the field of pharmacy who made significant contributions to the profession. She was a pharmacist, an educator and a researcher, who was known for her commitment to advancing the standards of pharmacy practice and education. Hughes was a strong advocate for the incorporation of science into pharmacy practice and worked tirelessly to promote pharmaceutical research advancement. She was influential in developing the curriculum for pharmacy education, which focused on the scientific components of the profession. She also highlighted the importance of critical thinking and problem-solving. Hughes also played a key role in establishing the first schools of pharmacy, which helped to formalize the profession and raise its standards. Through her tireless efforts, Hughes helped shape the field of pharmacy into what it is today and her legacy continues to inspire future generations of pharmacists.

James McCune Smith was an influential African American physician, abolitionist, and intellectual in the 19th century. Born into slavery in New York City, he managed to obtain a high-quality education at the University of Glawgow and became the first African American to own a pharmacy in the nation. He went on to establish a successful pharmacy practice and was a prominent figure in the abolitionist movement, using his platform to speak out against slavery and advocate for the rights of African Americans. In addition to his pharmacy and activist work, Smith was also an active writer and scholar, contributing to various literary and scientific journals and publishing several works on a wide range of topics, including medicine, history, and politics. Despite facing numerous obstacles and discrimination due to his race, Smith remained dedicated in his commitment to improving quality of healthcare for African Americans and advancing social justice.

Leo Butts was a noteworthy African American pharmacist who made significant contributions to the pharmacy profession and was a pioneer for Black pharmacists. He graduated from the Howard University College of Pharmacy in 1952 and went on to become the first African American pharmacist to own and operate a pharmacy in the state of Maryland. Butts was a consistent advocate for diversity in pharmacy and was instrumental in the formation of the National Pharmaceutical Association (NPhA), an organization dedicated to advancing the interests of Black pharmacists and improving the health outcomes of underrepresented communities. As the first African American president of the Maryland Pharmaceutical Association, Butts also played a key role in increasing the visibility and recognition of lack pharmacists in the state. Through his leadership and advocacy, Butts helped pave the way for generations of Black pharmacists to come.

In 2019, Black graduating student pharmacists made up only 8.5% of Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degrees conferred while making up 18.5% of the U.S. population. Addressing and prioritizing structural racism and supporting Black and other minoritized students is a core value of PharmGradWishlist. From the team at PGWL, Happy Black History Month!

A big thanks to Ji-Woo Lee (PGWL Intern and University of Rhode Island, P3) and Olivia Arukwe (University of Rhode Island, P3) for their work on this blog!


1.) Glenn Sonnedecker 100th Birthday Party. (2017). Pharmacy in History, 59(4), 148.

2.) New-York Historical Society - Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures. James McCune Smith. Available at

3.) The University of Glasgow Story. Available at

4.) University of Houston Health Sciences Library. Julia Pearl Hughes. Available at



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