LTH named after James McCune Smith

LTH named after James McCune Smith

Issued: Tue, 09 Oct 2018 11:05:00 BST

The Learning and Teaching Hub has been formally named after American abolitionist and medic James McCune Smith.

James McCune Smith video

The announcement was made on the 150th anniversary of the beginning of construction of the Gilmorehill campus.

The foundation stone was laid by Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Susan Aitken, on the site of the James McCune Smith Learning Hub.

As well as marking 150 years of history at Gilmorehill, it symbolises the beginning of construction on the University’s campus development programme, which is the most significant development of the University’s Gilmorehill campus since the original move.

McCune Smith was a freed slave and the first African American to receive a medical degree, graduating from the University of Glasgow with an MD in 1837.

This announcement comes after the University of Glasgow published a comprehensive report detailing the institution’s historical links with racial slavery on 16 September, which includes a programme of reparative justice. One of the recommendations from the report was to name a new building for and in commemoration of the enslaved.

The James McCune Smith Learning Hub will open in the next academic year, 2019/20, and is the first new building being delivered through the University’s £1 billion Campus Development programme.

Building video

James McCune Smith 


James McCune Smith was born into slavery in 1813, however was freed by New York State's Emancipation Act on July 4, 1827.

Recognised as being intellectually gifted, McCune Smith attended the African Free School in Manhattan where his academic achievements led him to apply to several American universities.

After being denied entry to all due to his race, McCune Smith applied for – and was accepted by – the University of Glasgow’s medical school.

McCune Smith went on to gain three qualifications from the University of Glasgow - a bachelor's degree in 1835, a master’s degree in 1836, and his medical doctorate in 1837.

Upon returning to New York McCune Smith set up medical practice in lower Manhattan and grew to be recognised as a prominent figure in the New York black community and a leading intellectual.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: 

“James McCune Smith was truly a pioneer, not only becoming the first African American to gain a medical degree, but also one of the leading intellectuals of his time.

“The University of Glasgow is proud of our association with his legacy and it is fitting that we honour it in the naming of this building. The new James McCune Smith Learning Hub will revolutionise how we deliver learning and teaching support and provide a world-class facility for generations of future students from around the world.”

The annual James McCune Smith lecture will be given on Friday 19 October 2018 by Professor Charmaine Nelson of McGill University. the lecture is titled: “Ran away from her Master…a Negroe Girl named Thursday”: Examining Evidence of Punishment, Isolation, and Trauma in Nova Scotia and Quebec Fugitive Slave Advertisements