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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Salter and Doris Cochran, April 12, 1997. Interview R-0014. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Discrimination motivates black medical students to work hard

The obstacles Salter and other African-American students encountered as they worked toward their medical degrees made them work harder, and as a result, they excelled. But even the discrimination in Washington, D.C., did not prepare the Cochrans for life farther south.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Salter and Doris Cochran, April 12, 1997. Interview R-0014. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

SALTER COCHRAN:
We were married in 1947ߞwe've been married for 50 years this year. My wife has been very supportive of anything that we've done. I interned at a predominantly black hospital in Baltimore called Provident. I got further training in a small clinic in Tarboro, Quigless Clinic. I got the board [certification] in 1950. We set up here in 1950. While I was taking the board, I had to stay at St. Augustine Hospital, which was a predominantly black hospital in Raleigh. You weren't able to stay in the hotels. The amazing thing about taking the examsߞall the white students crowded around us. They thought we knew more than they did! In the final analysis, we did know more, because we were trained in medical school that you were going to meet all kinds of obstacles.
DORIS COCHRAN:
Dr. [Charles] Drew taught him.
SALTER COCHRAN:
Yes, the blood plasma man. He was a personal friend of mine most of my life. His sister finished high school with me. Eva Drew, who's a friend of mine. She's still living up in New York. That's early. We had been used to facing these things, but we were sort of in isolation in Washington. I was in the college crowd, but we were isolated in northwest Washington, and parts of northeast. But none in the suburbs all around. I knew nothing about that. You couldn't go to a theater there. You went to predominantly black theaters. I was prepared for it [segregation in Weldon], but my wife wasn't, with her background of being born in Denver, and going to Oregon where there were two thousand black people in the whole state. Her father was an AME [Afro-Methodist Episcopal] minister, so she's tell you more about that.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
Do you remember at this time if you could have trained or practiced at any of the VA [Veterans' Administration] Hospitals?
SALTER COCHRAN:
No, they were kind of radical, too, considering the whole situation. They didn't encourage you to come. The only VA hospital you could go to was down in Tuskegee, where they did that experiment you hear so much about [The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment]. Dr. Drew got killed going down there for a seminar. He got killed at Haw River. That was the only veterans hospital I know. They did not encourage us to come to veterans hospitals. In fact, in the service, we integrated for the first time at the hospital at San Antonio. They cut our tour short. We were supposed to be there for 60 days, but we stayed for 30. They were rushing me to Korea. This was in 1952. I stayed there in combat for about nine months. There were 300 of us that they shipped out. Now they were integrated. And we would go downtown in San Antone, and they looked at us right strangely. But these lieutenants and captains, I'd go in a mixed group, and nobody would say anything. Texas had that segregation law. We got ready to fly back, and saw "colored" and "white" on the doors, and I didn't notice the doors, because I was going in. I knew what was practiced, but they said nothing, because there were about 300 of us. I imagine they were afraid to approach any of the officers. All of them were officers.