On this day, January 18, 1856, Daniel Hale Williams III was born a “free Negro” in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Dr. Williams is recognized as performing one of the first successful heart surgeries.

Dr. Williams earned his Medical degree from Chicago Medical College (now Northwestern University Medical School) in 1883. At the time that he graduated from medical school, Black doctors were not allowed to work in Chicago hospitals. In 1891, he founded Provident Hospital, the first non-segregated hospital in the United States, and training school for nurses. In 1893, he performed one of the first successful pericardium surgeries.

 In 1895, he co-founded the National Medical Association for Black doctors. In 1913, he became a charter member, and the only Black member, in the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Williams died August 4, 1931. The Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine in Chicago is named in his honor.


On this date Zora Neal Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960), folklorist, anthropologist, one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature. Hurston published more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays. She is perhaps best known for her 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.

Born to a Baptist preacher father and school teacher mother in Notasulga, Alabama, Hurston was raised in the all black town of Eatonville, Florida. She was quoted “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It is beyond me.”

Hurston began her undergraduate studies at Howard University but a scholarship brought her to Barnard College, Columbia University, in 1925, where she was the college’s sole black student. She graduated from Barnard with a B.A. in Anthropology at age 36, in 1927. She later did graduate work in Anthropology at Columbia University. 

Closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston influenced such writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, and Alice Walker.