When Oulimata Sow first heard the story of Dr. Frank Boston, she felt awed and inspired. Boston, a World War I veteran, doctor, and surgeon, started a hospital and an ambulance corps nearly 100 years ago. He also received two U.S. Presidential Citations—but despite all his accomplishments, he is virtually unknown. “Dr. Boston is one of the many hidden heroes of Black history,” Sow says. “His story shapes a generation.”
Last March, Sow ’20 Com, who co-founded and runs a custom home care service, Tanel Homecare & Staffing Agency, joined the Boston Legacy Foundation—an organization started by her family friend and historian George Whitehair—as the official spokesperson for its Dr. Boston Project. The project seeks to draw attention to Boston’s history and legacy. Since its launch, it has elicited interest from several veterans’ groups, and politicians in both Pennsylvania (Boston was a Philadelphia native) and Washington, D.C. Sow has also connected with W. Douglas Fisher, author of African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers, who is helping to spread Boston’s story. Artist Khoi Pham of Marvel Comics fame is creating a special children’s book, and last July, Sow traveled to Iowa to help present the story for inclusion in the Fort Des Moines Museum, the military base where African American soldiers trained for the war.
Sow hopes to secure a third Presidential Citation for Boston, who died in 1960. “Many people have reached out to us and said, ‘My dad was a patient of Dr. Boston,’ and many of them are white,” she says, “so when you think about a Black doctor treating white patients at that time, you know this is huge, and we have an obligation to carry his story.” —Savita Iyer