John H. Rapier, Jr.’s Letter to the Medical Director of New Orleans
In June 1864, John H. Rapier wrote a letter to the Medical Director in New Orleans, Louisiana, applying for a position as an acting assistant surgeon. In the letter he identifies himself as a “quadroon” [one-quarter Black by descent] of Southern birth and a graduate of the University of Iowa (Keokuk Medical College). Rapier’s self-identification as a “quadroon” from the South in this letter compared to his self-identification as a man of color from Jamaica when applying for medical school, reveals his understanding of the advantages of a light complexion and a foreign residence, and his willingness to use that for his own advancement.
Transcription – Letter from John H. Rapier to the Medical Director, New Orleans, LA, June 23, 1864
Washington, D.C. June 23rd 1864
New Orleans La
Sir. I would most respectfully wish an engagement with you as A.A. Surgeon U.S.A. I am an under graduate of the University of Mich and a graduate of University Iowa.
It may be irrelevant to state that I am a quadroon of Southern birth.
Hoping that you may find it convenient to engage me, and trusting to hear from you soon.
I have the honor
to be your Obt Servt
John H. Rapier M.D.
care of H. Calmorgan, Esq.
St. Louis, Missouri