This Day in Black History: Jan. 28, 1862

Medical missionary Louise Cecelia Fleming was born in Clay Country, Florida.

Posted: 01/28/2013 07:00 AM EST

(Photo: Courtesy of the Clay County Archives)

Louise Cecelia Fleming, who served as an American medical missionary in Africa, was born in Clay County, Florida, on Jan. 28, 1862.

Born a slave, she went on to attend Shaw University in North Carolina, where she graduated as class valedictorian in 1885. She would become the first African-American woman commissioned by the Woman's American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society to work in Africa, traveling from the United States to what is present-day Zaire for five years. 

She returned to the U.S. in 1891 to study medicine, graduating from Shaw University’s Leonard Medical School in 1895. She traveled again to the Congo, but was stricken by a disease known as “African sleeping sickness” that forced her to return to the U.S. in 1898. One year later, she passed away on June 20, 1899.

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