Every High School student has had the story drummed into him: Dr. Charles Drew, the brilliant Negro medical researcher who discovered how to preserve human blood plasma so that it could be used for transfusions, is responsible for saving countless lives of wounded GIs during the Second World War. Five years after the war, however, White racism was responsible for Drew’s own death.
The poignant story was first told by William Loren Katz in his high school textbook, Eyewitness: the Negro in American History (1967). On page 449 of the book Katz writes: “On April 1, 1950, Dr. Drew was injured in an auto accident near Burlington, North Carolina. Although he was bleeding profusely, he was turned away from the nearest ‘white’ hospital. By the time he was taken to another hospital, the scientist had bled to death.”
Every major element in this story is untrue. First, Drew was hardly a “Negro.” He was of mixed race, at least three-quarters White, as his photograph clearly reveals.
Second, his actual contribution to the technology of the modern blood bank was minimal. His work for the Red Cross Blood Bank was more logistic and administrative than scientific, and it involved nothing in the way of a scientific breakthrough or a major technical innovation.
Third, the claim that Drew bled to death after being turned away from a White hospital has been flatly contradicted by virtually everyone, including Blacks, with firsthand knowledge of his death. When Drew fell asleep at the wheel of his car on April 1, 1950, it ran off the road, threw him out, and rolled over him. He suffered massive brain damage and chest injuries. One leg was nearly severed.
He was rushed to Alamance General Hospital, where three White physicians worked desperately for two hours to save his life. One of the witnesses to the emergency-room drama in the hospital on that morning was Dr. Charles Mason Quick, now a 67-year-old Black physician practicing in Fayetteville. In an interview in Greensboro last month, Quick told newsmen what he had seen. He says he wants to establish a North Carolina scholarship in memory of Drew “that would go a long way toward dispelling this terrible myth.”
Another witness was Marvin Yount, the White administrator of the hospital. Yount demanded an apology from Katz for his false version of Drew’s death, and in May 1971 Katz acknowledged his “error” in a letter to Yount. The latest edition of Katz’s book has quietly dropped the story, but Katz has made no effort to undo the mischief already caused by the earlier editions.
Indeed, Katz, a Jew, earns his living peddling stories designed to make minorities look good and Whites feel guilty. He has been a major figure in the promotion of the “Black history” craze which has overtaken the U.S. educational system in the last 15 years, inventing Black gunfighters who won the West, a Black explorer who discovered the North Pole, Black military heroes responsible for America’s freedom, and Black scientists who launched the scientific revolution of the 20th century.
In addition to Eyewitness: the Negro in American History, Katz has also written Teachers’ Guide to American Negro History (1968), American Minorities and Majorities: a Syllabus of United States History for Secondary Schools (1970), The Black West: a Documentary and Pictorial History (1971), A History of Black Americans (1973), Minorities in American History (six volumes, 1974–75), and four other books dealing with the same general subject matter. He is also the editor of several series of monographs on Black history and is a member of the editorial board of the periodical Black Studies.