Local black medical pioneers featured in exhibit at Thronateeska

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Feb. 28—ALBANY — An exhibit that recently opened at the Thronateeska Heritage Center for Black History Month features some of the medical pioneers who lived and worked in Albany, from the days of slavery to the modern era.

The "Unsung African-American Medical Heroes" exhibit highlights the work of 15 individuals and opened on Thursday, with plans for it to run through at least the end of March.

"I would love to encourage people to come out," Jackie Entz, director of education for the Artesian Alliance, which manages the center, Flint RiverQuarium and Chehaw Park & Zoo, said. "I think it's especially important because these are local stories. They're people we know or we know their families who still live here."

While not a practitioner of medicine himself, one of the individuals noted is well known in the musical world. For the midwife Mary Coley, who lived from 1900 to 1966 and provided prenatal, birth and postnatal services to black and white families, Ray Charles was her first delivery.

Her last delivery was of Tyler Harris, a historian and chronologist of African-American artifacts, some of which are on display at the Albany Civil Rights Institute.

Dr. William Anderson, the first president of the Albany Civil Rights Movement, also was the first black president of the American Osteopathic Association.

"Dr. Edgar Parker was the first dentist south of Macon to be part of the American Medical Association and other associations," Entz said.

Thronateeska developed the exhibit through a partnership with Albany State University, and a Thronateeska board member and a student at the university conducted research for the project, she said.

Among those featured was Susie King Taylor. Born into slavery in Liberty County, Taylor became one of the first black nurses to serve with the Union army.

The exhibit focuses on the 2022 Black History Month theme, "Black Health and Wellness."

"We decided to make that the central part of the exhibit and look at unsung African-American medical heroes here in southwest Georgia," Entz said. "Last year we had an exhibit on Mary Coley. This is the first year we adopted the national theme and built our exhibit around it."