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Mt Hope Drive

The gravestone of Charles Lunsford, the first licensed African American physician in Rochester.

Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester is one of the City’s most unique and treasured historic resources.  Dedicated in 1838 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, Mount Hope Cemetery is the oldest municipally operated Victorian cemetery in the United States.  It holds national prominence as the final resting place of Frederick Douglas, abolitionist, author and ambassador.

Published on the eve of the Civil War, in 1861, the most prominent slave narrative written by any former slave other than Douglass sparked a firestorm of reaction similar to that of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  The cemetery is also home to other notable men and women who struggled against the scourge of slavery, freed themselves and made new lives.

Mt Hope Cemetery is also the final resting place of   Charles Lunsford, the first licensed African American physician, having started his medical practice here on Clarissa Street in 1921.  Although, he graduated first in his class from Howard University Medical School, he was prohibited from practicing medicine on his patients in the local hospital.  Regardless of persistent discrimination he persisted and was responsible for overturning the nationwide American Red Cross racist policy prohibiting black people from donating blood by recruiting a group of light-skinned African Americans who passed for white to make donations. Lunsford then reported his stunt to the Democrat and Chronicle, which forwarded Lunsford’s letter to the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Within days, Red Cross officials turned up in Rochester and announced a policy change allowing black people to give blood.