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African American Citizenship Conflicts Diversity Military Untold Stories We are Overcomers

Dr. Urbane F. Bass

FAM Mar 21
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Dr. Urbane F. Bass practiced medicine in Fredericksburg from 1906-1917 – the first African American to do so since the Reconstruction period. Dr. Bass was the only African-American physician practicing between Richmond and Washington, a crucial need since the Fredericksburg hospital only admitted whites.

He had every incentive to stay home and no requirement to go. And yet, in 1917, he offered his services to the government. When U.S. troops went into battle in 1918 Dr. Urbane Bass, First Lieutenant and surgeon went with them. On October 7, 1918, while working at an aid station on the front lines, an artillery shell severed Dr. Bass’s legs above his knees. He lived only a few moments.

Posthumously, Dr. Bass received the Distinguished Service Cross—an award second only to a Medal of Honor. The Fredericksburg community commemorated his sacrifice with a stained-glass window that still adorns the sanctuary of his church, Shiloh Baptist Church (New Site). Today, he is the only African-American officer buried in Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

Editor’s note: Want to learn about the African American experience from the arrival of the first Africans in 1619 to present day? Mark your calendar for the Determined: The 400-year Struggle for Black Equality exhibition.


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  1. AE Curator March 27, 2019

    Thank you for sharing your story! We are inspired by Dr. Bass’ service, bravery and sacrifice.


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