A Near-Death Experience Inspired Her To Serve Others

Vintage medical bag
Leslie Taylor-Grover
May 19, 2021

Lulu Fleming’s father was from the Congo, and she didn’t know him. She was enslaved, and didn’t know whether she’d be sold or to where. After the Civil War, she finally accessed a teacher’s education, but she didn’t know where she would teach. 

But there was something she knew plenty about – and it would be the key to her transformation of how Black people received medical care.

Fleming knew a lot about being seriously ill. She knew we had a hard time getting basic care, let alone treatment for serious illnesses. Her own sicknesses inspired her to act. But what could a Black teacher do about the racist medical field?

She went to medical school, and had the opportunity to travel to the Congo to work with white missionaries. What she took with her, however, was far beyond what her white counterparts expected.

Instead of just giving minimal effort to Black patients like her colleagues, she used her teaching skills to train patients to become nurses and medical personnel! She ensured the care she gave them could continue – so they could take care of their own in spite of white indifference.

Passing down our knowledge is crucial to liberation. Both a teacher and a doctor, Fleming brought health and self-sufficiency to our people in other parts of the world – and inspired countless Black doctors back home.

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