University of Glasgow names building after James McCune Smith

A new £90 million learning and teaching facility at the University of Glasgow has been named after American abolitionist and medic James McCune Smith.

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


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

The new facility will provide learning and teaching space for over 2,500 students and will include flexible learning spaces and technology-enabled teaching resources.

This announcement comes after the University of Glasgow published a comprehensive report on 16 September, 2018 detailing the institution’s historical links with racial slavery, which includes a programme of reparative justice.


Tomorrow (Monday 8 October) The University of Glasgow will lay a foundation stone at the site of the James McCune Smith Learning Hub to mark the 150th anniversary of the original foundation stone being laid at the Gilbert Scott Building, when the University relocated to Gilmorehill.

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.

“This is also consistent with the actions agreed in a recent report to provide reparative justice due to the University’s historical links with racial slavery, and emphasises our commitment to that programme.

“It is particularly pleasing that we can announce the naming of the building and mark the start of the development of the new Western campus on the 150th anniversary of the original foundation stone being laid at our Gilmorehill campus.”


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.

 Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow report

This announcement fulfils recommendation number 6 in the report - to name a new building for and in commemoration of the enslaved - in the report on ‘Slavery Abolition and the University of Glasgow’, published on 17 September 2018

You can read the full report online.

James McCune Smith Learning Hub

Location: University Avenue, next to Boyd Orr Building
Expected Completion Date: Academic year 2019/2020
Size: 16640m2 
Cost: £90.6m

Architects: HLM 


First published: 7 October 2018

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