Magazine article Humanities

One Site: A Hospital's Story

Magazine article Humanities

One Site: A Hospital's Story

Article excerpt

It was the place black patients went when they didn't want to be treated in a basement, and the first Norfolk hospital to have its own ambulance.

Norfolk Community Hospital closed in 1998 in the face of increasing integration and rising health costs. But Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander and her husband, William H. Alexander, history professors at Norfolk State University in Virginia, hope to keep alive the hospital's legacy as part of a website the Alexanders are developing on black life in Hampton Roads.

"We want to get people to look at some of the collected materials," Newby-Alexander says, "and discover for themselves the rich history that is here in their community."

The couple plan to post hospital financial records, photographs, and transcripts of interviews with patients. The website already which has a hall of fame of local notables, includes Ida Barbour, who opened the state's first daycare center for children of black working mothers, and Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a Norfolk native who became the first president of Liberia. "There are probably many people in Roberts Park who don't know who it was named after," Newby-Alexander says.

The Alexanders, who live in Chesapeake, Virginia, are taking a sabbatical to work on their research, which is supported with a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. They will focus on Norfolk Community and on another local black hospital of the 1900s, Whittaker Memorial, later known as Newport News General. A few years ago, the two were among four black hospitals left in the country. …

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