With African American History Month coming to a close, it is important to reflect on some of the adversity faced by African American chiropractors and gains made in chiropractic history. The story of Harvey Lillard, the first chiropractic patient, is a familiar one both at Palmer and in the wider world of chiropractic. Although African Americans have been part of chiropractic from its inception, when D.D. Palmer made his first chiropractic adjustment of Lillard in 1895, the path for race equality in chiropractic has been one of struggle. One major landmark of African American chiropractic history is evidenced in the First Annual Catalogue of the Rubel College of Chiropractic Inc., 1922-1923.
The Rubel College of Chiropractic, which the catalogue calls the “first chiropractic school of the race,” was incorporated in 1914 in Alabama, and in 1921 in Chicago, by Fred H. L. Rubel, D.C. (pictured above). The college was created “to open the field of instruction to all races, no matter what the color of their skin may be, so as particularly to give members of the colored race an opportunity to learn one of the greatest modern professions—Chiropractic.” Dr. Rubel was joined in his work by Julian Dawson, M.D., who was an instructor of Anatomy and other subjects at the college. More on the background of Dr. Rubel can be found in the article, “Fred Rubel: The First Black Chiropractor?” published in Chiropractic History (vol. 11, no. 1, June 1991, pp. 8-9). Both the original Rubel College catalogue and the corresponding Chiropractic History article can be viewed in Special Collections and Archives at the David D. Palmer Health Sciences Library. Reading Room hours are 8:30am-4pm, Monday-Friday. —Rosemary Riess