Throwback Thursday. Joycelyn Elders. The First African-American Surgeon General.

Jocyelyn Elders
(official portrait via Wikipedia)

Joycelyn Elders was born in 1933 in the low-income farming community of Schaal, Arkansas. She went on to become a practicing pediatrician, a public health administrator and advocate and also served in the United States Army as a Vice Admiral.

In 1993 Elders was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the position of Surgeon General. She was the sixteenth surgeon general and the first African-American selected for this particular post. During her brief tenure, Elders made several controversial comments including picking a side in the abortion debate advocating for teens sexuality. Soon after her comments, she was fired by Clinton in 1994.

After being let go from her position as Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders returned to the University of Arkansas to as a professor of pediatrics and continued to advocate for sexual education for teenagers and the legalization of marijuana. Most recently, this year, at the age of 80, Elders supported transgender individuals by calling for a lift on a military ban that prevented transgender individuals from serving.

Check out this amazing interview with Joycelyn Elders for the New York Times from 1994 in which she expresses support for Anita Hill and talks about how crucial access to contraception is, especially for young black girls.