To celebrate Black History Month, the National Civil Rights Museum’s newest exhibit highlights notable figures from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The exhibit is an interactive poster installation that traces the history of St. Jude and its fundraising organization, the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), from 1962 to 2022. It shares the stories of three people who represent the institution’s work.

The installation will be displayed in the guest lounge on the second floor of the museum until Tuesday, March 8.

Picture Caption: One of St. Jude’s first Black doctors, the late Dr. Rudolph Jackson holds a photo of himself from 1968, the year he first joined the hospital staff. (Courtesy: ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)

Known for its trademark phrase “Finding cures. Saving children,” St. Jude was founded in 1962 as the first, fully integrated children’s hospital in the South. 

In the exhibit, St. Jude recognizes the late Dr. Rudolph Jackson, one of the hospital’s first Black doctors. He joined the hospital in 1968 to treat sickle cell diseases, cancers, solid tumors and other life-threatening diseases. His research and treatment coincided with the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968 and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jackson built the sickle cell program at St. Jude, and, in the early 1970s, he became the coordinator of the National Sickle Cell Disease Program and chief of the National Heart and Lung Institute’s Sickle Cell Disease Branch. St. Jude named an on-campus space after Jackson in honor of his contributions.

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The exhibit also spotlights Courtney Davis, a now 21-year-old patient with sickle cell disease, and architect Paul R. Williams, who created the star-shaped sketch that became the first St. Jude building. According to the children’s hospital, the same building accommodated innovative research that produced the first major advances in treating leukemia and other previously incurable childhood diseases.

St. Jude says that highlighting these leaders as part of the exhibit reflects its 60-year legacy of defying racial inequities within health care. 

“Just as the Lorraine was one of the few places in the 1960s where African Americans were welcomed, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened its doors to all at the height of formal segregation. We look forward to the greater understanding this exhibit will create about the intertwined histories of Memphis and St. Jude,” said Dr. Russell Wigginton, the President of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.

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