Free Quality Health Care for All: Lincoln Hospital

Lincoln Community Health Center
525 East Proctor Street (now 1301 Fayetteville Street)
Durham, NC

Lincoln was the only hospital within a 25-mile radius of Durham that would treat African Americans until the early 1960s when Watts Hospital integrated its wards. Before this integration, Blacks often turned to midwives and home remedies for their healthcare. Dr. Stanford Warren, John Merrick, and Dr. Aaron Moore, Durham’s first Black physician, founded Lincoln hospital in 1901 so that the African American community had its own medical facility where Black physicians and nurses could practice and receive training. Many people supported Lincoln’s founding, including a generous donation from Mr. Washington Duke, a well-known Durham businessman.

The lack of access to healthcare was a key strategy of Jim Crow segregation – it perpetuated economic inequality and social immobility. Black Americans in good health are able to prosper, work, and advocate for themselves. The hospital was also an economic engine in the community and served people from across central North Carolina. Lincoln’s efforts to provide quality health care services, available to all despite their ability to pay, helped decrease the high mortality rate in Durham’s Black community. But Lincoln hospital could only rely upon 30% of annual income from patients – the remaining support came from endowments, the city and county of Durham, and other outside donations. 

Lincoln Hospital also focused on prevention: health educators, nurses, and physicians conducted workshops for community members at churches, clubs, and schools. They held weekly clinics to teach prenatal and postnatal care to mothers who could not afford personal physicians, empowering them to make good choices regarding the birth and care of their children.   

Lincoln Hospital chose to integrate its staff, hiring qualified white medical professionals to expand the number of patients that could be treated. This collaboration of expertise and skill allowed the hospital to provide a safety net for those who were unable to access and afford healthcare. Lincoln transformed itself from a full-scale hospital to Lincoln Community Health in 1976. It continues in its mission to serve the Durham community today, providing services to all citizens including those without health insurance or who could not otherwise afford care.



"History." Lincoln Community Health Center. Accessed December 1, 2020. 

"The Lasting Legacy of Lincoln Hospital." The Duke Endowment. Last modified 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020. 

"Lincoln Hospital – Fayetteville Street." Open Durham. Accessed December 1, 2020. 

Watts, C. D., and F. W. Scott. "Lincoln Hospital of Durham, North Carolina: A Short History." Journal of the National Medical Association 57, no. 2 (March 1965): 177-83. Accessed December 1, 2020.