The Georgia Infirmary Was The First Hospital Built For African Americans In The U.S.

The Georgia Infirmary was the United States’ first hospital for African Americans. The hospital was founded by the Georgia General Assembly and supported by a $10,000 donation from the estate of Thomas F. Williams, a local merchant, and pastor, and opened on December 24, 1832 “for the relief and protection of aged and ailing Africans.” The Adult Day Center-Georgia Infirmary, which is part of the St. Joseph’s/Candler healthcare network, is currently known as the Adult Day Center-Georgia Infirmary.

Due to their living and working conditions, enslaved individuals were frequently in poor health, and many were driven out by their masters when they were no longer able to work. As a result, the hospital cared for the elderly and sickly enslaved while recouping the costs from the slave owners. The Infirmary was erected on a 50-acre piece of land granted by Richard F. Williams, the brother, and administrator of Thomas F. Williams’ estate, 10 miles south of Savannah, Georgia. The hospital’s board of trustees elected Richard F. Williams as its first president. The state government provided $20 per patient each year when the facility first opened.

Georgia Infirmary

The hospital’s original location was unpopular with both trustees and patients; the majority of the latter were from the city, and the hospital was too far away for them. The trustees desired a location where they could keep a closer eye on things. In 1838, the Infirmary was relocated to its current location on Lincoln Street and White Bluff Road, now known as Bull Street, a mile from Savannah. There were just single-story dwellings and farm plots on these fourteen acres. “Well-equipped, with professional nurses, comfortable beds, well-ventilated wards, wide recreational grounds, and a good dietary department,” was how it was marketed.

The hospital’s operations were disrupted by the Civil War and emancipation, but in 1870, twelve new trustees were elected, and Edward Padelford donated $10,000 to the hospital. The Savannah City Council was informed the next year that the Infirmary would resume accepting patients.

The Infirmary was one of the first in the country to educate black nurses in 1904. It was enlarged in the 1940s to satisfy the demand of a rising population relocating to Savannah to work in shipyards and manufacturing companies fulfilling World War II orders. The federal government gave $695,000 in support for the first time, including a wing with 89 beds, five pediatric beds, an incubator, X-ray, surgical, and kitchen equipment, and a heating plant, in response to the growing number of black war laborers.

The Adult Day Center was renamed the Infirmary in 1974. As part of the St. Joseph’s/Candler healthcare network, it now provides care and rehabilitation for stroke patients.

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