Special Exhibit: Binding Wounds

Entrance to the Kalamazoo Direct to You history gallery on the 2nd floor of the museum with a Checker Cab on display.
Binding Wounds

Binding Wounds

This exhibit is now closed.

Many histories have been written about medical care during the American Civil War, but the participation and contributions of African Americans as nurses, surgeons, and hospital workers has often been overlooked. Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine looks at the men and women who served as surgeons and nurses and how their service as medical providers challenged the prescribed notions of race and gender, pushing the boundaries of the role of African Americans in America.

Through historical images and period documents, the exhibit explores the life and experiences of surgeons Alexander T. Augusta and Anderson R. Abbott, and nurses Susie King Taylor and Ann Stokes, as they provided medical care to soldiers and civilians while participating in the fight for freedom. “Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries opens the door to this rarely studied part of history and brings a voice to those that have remained silent for nearly 150 years,” says Curator Jill L. Newmark.

With a nation divided, the American Civil War was a war to preserve the Union. For African Americans, it was a fight for freedom and a chance for full participation in American society. As all Americans sought ways to participate and contribute to the war effort for the Union, African Americans moved beyond the prejudices they faced to serve as soldiers, nurses, surgeons, laundresses, cooks, and laborers.

African Americans who served as surgeons and nurses for the Union Army found themselves in both new and familiar roles as healers and caretakers. Surgeons were in positions of authority, which had never occurred in the United States, while nurses received paid wages for their work. These men and women came from different backgrounds and life experiences, but their desire to participate in the cause for freedom transcended class, education, and social position.