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What is the documentary about the black hospital in st louis?

The black hospital in St. Louis being referenced is Homer G. Phillips Hospital. It was a leading African American teaching hospital that served the Black community in St. Louis for over half a century before closing in 1979.

History of Homer G. Phillips Hospital

Homer G. Phillips Hospital was founded in 1937 as a segregated hospital for the Black community in St. Louis. It was named after Homer G. Phillips, an attorney and activist who championed healthcare rights for African Americans in the city. At the time, Black patients were denied care or faced discrimination at other hospitals in the area.

The hospital quickly became the center of medical care for Black residents in St. Louis. It had state-of-the-art facilities and trained generations of African American doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. By the 1950s, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was the largest training hospital for African American medical students in the country.

However, the hospital suffered from chronic underfunding due to racial discrimination. As the Civil Rights movement progressed and segregation ended, the city decided to close Homer G. Phillips Hospital in 1979, replacing it with a community health center.

The Documentary

In 2021, a documentary film titled “The Homer G. Phillips Hospital: A Dream Deferred, A Promise Denied” was released. It was directed by Frederick Stark and Jamaa Bashir.

The documentary chronicles the rise and fall of this important Black institution in St. Louis. It combines archival footage and interviews with former patients, staff and community members. They share first-hand stories about how the hospital impacted their lives.

The film explores several key themes:

  • The critical role Homer G. Phillips Hospital played in healthcare and medical training for African Americans in the mid 20th century
  • The dedication and skill of the predominantly Black staff at the hospital
  • The hardships and discrimination the hospital faced due to racism in the local government and health systems
  • The loss felt in the Black community when the hospital closed in 1979
  • The need to preserve and acknowledge the legacy of Homer G. Phillips Hospital today

People Featured

The documentary features interviews with over a dozen former patients, staff members and community leaders. Some of the key people include:

  • Dr. Robert Lee Williams – An alumnus who became the first Black full professor at Washington University Medical School
  • Marva Battle-Bey – A nurse who trained and worked at Homer G. Phillips for over 30 years
  • Dorothy “Dot” Aldridge Roundtree – One of the first Black nursing students to train at the hospital in the 1940s
  • Dr. Plater Robinson Jr. – Former chief of surgery and grandson of the hospital’s namesake, Homer G. Phillips
  • Dorothy Whitfield – A local teacher and community organizer who led efforts to save the hospital from closing

Themes and Discussion

Through these personal stories, the documentary touches on broader issues of racism, segregation, healthcare access and the preservation of African American history. Some of the key discussions include:

  • The society and structural racism that necessitated a segregated Black hospital in St. Louis
  • The substandard funding and resources allotted to Homer G. Phillips Hospital
  • The economic motivations behind the hospital’s controversial closure in 1979
  • The loss of jobs, training opportunities and community services when the hospital shut down
  • Efforts to preserve the history of Homer G. Phillips Hospital today
  • The parallels between the struggles at the hospital and contemporary issues in healthcare for minority groups

Significance of the Hospital

Through interviews and archival images, the documentary conveys the enormous significance of Homer G. Phillips Hospital for St. Louis’s African American community. At its peak, the hospital had:

Metrics Numbers
Staff Over 2,000 employees
Beds 552
Yearly patients Over 100,000 visits annually
Yearly operations Around 10,000 surgeries every year
Babies delivered Up to 350 births per month
Training programs Internships, residencies and training for hundreds of African American students and professionals

For over 40 years, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was the epicenter for Black healthcare and medical education in St. Louis. Its closure left a lasting void in the community.

Preserving the Legacy

Today, the documentary serves as an important record of the hospital’s history and contributions. It has been presented at several film festivals and community screenings in St. Louis.

In additional to the documentary, alumni of Homer G. Phillips Hospital have worked to preserve its legacy in other ways. From scholarships honoring the hospital to a historical marker at the site, these efforts recognize an influential institution that shaped African American lives for generations.


The documentary “The Homer G. Phillips Hospital: A Dream Deferred, A Promise Denied” provides a moving chronicle of this pioneering Black hospital in St. Louis. Through the eyes of former patients, staff and community members, it tells the story of how the hospital advanced African American healthcare and training, navigated injustice and discrimination, and served as a critical community institution. The film explores the legacy of Homer G. Phillips Hospital and its relevance to ongoing conversations about race, medicine and the preservation of African American history in St. Louis.