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New Scottish uni building dedicated to former slave

The University of Glasgow is opening a state-of-the-art teaching centre in honour of American abolitionist and former student James McCune Smith.

McCune Smith is famous in Glasgow for being the first African American to receive a medical degree, after graduating from the University in 1837.

McCune Smith was born into slavery in 1813 but was later freed by the New York State’s Emancipation Act in 1827. Although he was intellectually gifted, he was refused entry to American universities because of the colour of his skin. It was then that he applied to the University of Glasgow, becoming a doctor and going back to New York to set up a medical practice in lower Manhattan. He later became prominent figure in the New York black community and a leading intellectual.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said:

James McCune Smith was truly a pioneer, not only becoming the first African American to gain a medical degree, but also one of the leading intellectuals of his time.

The University of Glasgow is proud of our association with his legacy and it is fitting that we honour it in the naming of this building.

‌The James McCune Smith Learning Hub will open in time for the 2019/20 academic year, providing a learning and teaching space for more than 2,500 students. The foundation stone for the building was laid earlier this month.

The naming of the building follows a recent announcement by the University to provide reparative justice as a result of its historical links with slavery.

Image from the University of Glasgow

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