Sophia B. Jones

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Sophia Bethena Jones
Photo of Sophia B. Jones.jpg
Born 1857 (1857)
Chatham, Ontario, Canada
Died September 8, 1932(1932-09-08) (aged 74–75)
Alma mater University of Michigan Medical School
Occupation Physician, Educator
Notable work Fifty Years of Negro Public Health, published in 1913[1]

Sophia B. Jones (1857 – September 8, 1932) was a Canadian-born American medical doctor, founder of the nursing program at Spelman College. She was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Michigan Medical School, and the first black faculty member at Spelman.

Early life[edit]

Sophia Bethena Jones was born in Chatham, Ontario, the daughter of James Monroe Jones and Emily F. Francis Jones. Her father, who was a gunsmith by trade, was born in North Carolina, and was one of the first black graduates of Oberlin College. In the year Sophia was born, he was involved with John Brown's abolition activities in Canada.[2][3][4]

Her sisters Anna H. Jones (1855-1932) and Fredericka F. Jones (1860-1905) both became teachers.[5][6]

Sophia B. Jones attended the University of Michigan Medical School, finishing in 1885 as the school's first black female graduate.[7]


Sophia B. Jones became the first black faculty member at Spelman College when she was hired in 1885.[8] While at Spelman, she organized the school's nurses training program.[9]

After her time at Spelman, Jones worked at Wilberforce University, and practiced medicine in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Kansas City.[10] She also earned a patent in 1890 for a "Barrel trunk."[11]

Personal life[edit]

Late in life, Jones retired with her sister Anna to Monrovia, California, where they ran an orange grove.[12] Sophia and Anna both died in 1932; Sophia B. Jones was 75 years old.[13]

The University of Michigan Medical School offers a lectureship in infectious diseases named for Sophia B. Jones. There is also a Fitzbutler Jones Alumni Society, established by black alumni in 1997, and honoring her and the school's first black graduate, William Henry Fitzbutler.[14] There's also a conference room at Michigan named for Dr. Jones.[15]


  1. ^ "Sophia B. Jones Charts a Course of Success for African-American Doctors". Spelman College. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
  2. ^ Gwen Robinson, "Grandfather Arrived in North Carolina Aboard Slave Ship" Chatham Daily News (February 25, 2017).
  3. ^ Steven Lubet, The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War against Slavery (Cambridge University Press 2015): 38, 102. ISBN 9781316352205
  4. ^ Jacqueline L. Tobin, From Midnight to Dawn: The Last Tracks of the Underground Railroad (Doubleday 2007): 50. ISBN 9780385514316
  5. ^ Vivian M. May, Anna Julia Cooper, Visionary Black Feminist: A Critical Introduction (Routledge 2012): 23-28. ISBN 9781135911553
  6. ^ "An Appreciation" Rising Son (March 17, 1905): 5. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  7. ^ Ruth Bordin, Women at Michigan: The Dangerous Experiment, 1870s to the Present (University of Michigan Press 2001): 38. ISBN 9780472087938
  8. ^ "Sophia B. Jones Charts a Course of Success for African-American Doctors" Our Stories Spelman College (April 2016).
  9. ^ Miss H. E. Giles, "Spelman Seminary: Nurse Training Department" Baptist Home Mission Monthly (August 1894): 338.
  10. ^ Untitled news item, Rising Son (December 18, 1903): 5. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  11. ^ U. S. Patent CA 34906 A, "Barrel Trunk", issued to Sophia Bethena Jones on Aug 25, 1890.
  12. ^ The Michigan Alumnus (January 1921): 255.
  13. ^ Necrology, Michigan Alumnus (January 1933): 236.
  14. ^ M. F. "Building the Next Generation of African-American Physicians" Medicine at Michigan (Fall 2002): 34-35.
  15. ^ Sophia B. Jones Room, University of Michigan.