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Early Black Graduates of Philadelphia College of Pharmacy Identified

Published on April 26, 2019
John McFall
 John Allen McFall

New records have discovered that Philadelphia College of Pharmacy had several early black graduates prior to 1899, more than originally thought.

Since it was founded, the institution never prohibited enrollment, nor did the college record the racial status of matriculating students in registration ledgers, making it difficult to identify the first black graduate and limiting research in the field.

Greg Bond PhD, assistant editor of Pharmacy in History, recently discovered a memoir written by John Allen McFall PD’1899 in which McFall mentioned that during his student days, Professor Joseph Price Remington, who would become dean of the college, told him that the college had four black graduates.

Beginning in 1899, the publication of The Graduate yearbook added a new dimension to the search but only allows us to say that, although their numbers were small, African Americans graduated from PCP with some regularity going forward from that year.

William Taylor
 William Taylor

Dr. Bond knew of three African American graduates prior to 1899: Henry Minton PhG’1885; William Taylor PhG’1884; and Pinckney Napoleon Pinchback PhG’1887.

In search for a fourth graduate, Dr. Bond found Isaac Astor Jennings PhG’1897. He found that Jennings was born in Virginia and attended Shaw University in North Carolina before graduating from Lincoln University in 1893. He then attended Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and, after graduating, moved to Pittsburgh where he owned a drugstore until his death in 1914. Jennings’ death notice in the Druggist’s Circular identifies him as the founder of “the first Afro-American drug store in Western Pennsylvania” in 1898.

One reason for anticipating an earlier date for black enrollment involves the presence of so many Quakers in leadership positions at the college. The Society of Friends has a long history of support for educational programs benefiting African Americans in Philadelphia. Their commitment went hand in hand with their opposition to slavery.


Efie Nevers
 Efie Nevers

Significantly, perhaps, there were at least two Quaker administrators with strong personal ties to the antislavery movement. Dilwyn Parrish (college president, 1869–1885) was part of the Underground Railroad, and Henry Troth (founder and vice president, 1829–1842) was treasurer for the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.
Of course, the same kind of uncertainty also surrounds the identification of the first African American woman to graduate. The earliest claim on record belongs to Efie Nevers PhG’1923.

Categories: News, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacy Practice, Pharmacy, Alumni