Discriminatory practices in health care led to the creation of Lincoln Hospital. Though it was not Indianapolis’ first all-Black hospital, it was the only one that treated African Americans, regardless of their ability to pay.
The hospital was founded in 1909 by a group of local Black doctors. About 23 practiced in the city at that time. It was located in a two-story frame house at the northeast corner of Senate Avenue and 11th Street.
Though City Hospital was a public facility, Blacks avoided treatment there because they feared inferior and discriminatory care. Instead, they relied on home remedies and mail-order drugs, according to Lincoln Hospital co-founder Dr. Sumner A. Furniss.
Furniss and other Black doctors had an additional motive for opening Lincoln. Though they had received education equivalent to that given to white doctors, they could see their patients only in the patient’s home or in their offices. If a Black doctor’s patient needed hospital care, a white doctor had to assume the case.
Lincoln’s 12 rooms could accommodate 17 patients. According to its annual report, Lincoln was equipped with every necessity of a modern, thoroughly equipped hospital.
In 1911, the Recorder praised Lincoln nurses for their “softness of touch,” “dexterity of purpose,” and “gentleness of spirit …”
The hospital relied financially on the efforts of women’s groups. It also operated a school for Black nursing students.
Founding officers of Lincoln Hospital Association were: Dr. Furniss, Dr. W. E. Brown, Dr. C Atkins, and Dr. H. L. Hummons. A number of other physicians and well-known men composed the Board of Managers and Advisory Committee.
Two white Indiana businessmen, politician William English and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Carl Fisher provided substantial startup support.
Unable to sustain a profit, Lincoln Hospital closed in 1915.