William “Harvey” Lillard

The first chiropractic adjustment was given by D.D. Palmer to an African American man named William “Harvey” Lillard.   Harvey worked as a janitor in the same building as D.D. Palmer, the founder of Palmer School of Chiropractic. Harvey had lost his hearing 17 years before. One day D.D. inquired as to how he became deaf. Harvey described that he bent over in a stooped position and felt a pop in his spine and was suddenly deaf. DD then asked to feel his spine and felt a vertebra displaced from its normal position. He reasoned that if the vertebra were replaced, he would get his hearing back. After a half-hour of talking Harvey into the procedure. D.D. then “racked” the vertebra back into position. After the 4th adjustment, Harvey said he could hear the horses outside walking on the cobblestone street! Interestingly enough when DD Palmer founded Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1897, he did so with the school policy of “No negros allowed”.

First Chiropractic School of the Race

When it comes to education, The Rubel College of Chiropractic has been the most impactful to equality within chiropractic care. It is known as the “first chiropractic school of the race”. This college opened in 1914 and was founded by Dr. Fred H.L. Rubel. He is commonly referred to as the first African American chiropractor. At this time, the college formed with hopes of opening “the field of chiropractic instruction to all races, no matter the color of their skin may be, so as particularly to give members of the colored race an opportunity to learn one of the greatest modern professions—Chiropractic.”

Clarence Reaver

When Clarence Reaver, an African American student, showed promise in the field, Dr. Rubel challenged BJ Palmer to accept the student into Palmer School. However, a large group of white students threatened to walk out. BJ Palmer buckled due to nearly all of Palmer College of Chiropractic income coming from student tuition and denied Reaver admission. Reaver went on to found Reaver College of Chiropractic in Dayton, OH an integrated college. Their student body consisted of 2 black students for every 1 white student. Clarence Reaver’s brother Herbert Reaver became infamous because he went down as the most jailed chiropractor of all time. Despite being arrested 8 times for “practicing medicine without a license” before the chiropractic profession achieved licensure in Ohio.

American Black Chiropractic Association

Bobby Westbrooks, DC knew that the black community lacked information about the benefits of chiropractic. Dr. Westbrook and a few other black chiropractors, together with a small group of chiropractors and chiropractic students, helped form the American Black Chiropractic Association in 1982. Jerry Hardee, EdD was the first African American president of a chiropractic school. He served as president of Sherman College of Chiropractic from 2001-2005.

Despite prejudice early in the field of Chiropractic, today black Chiropractors make up 8% of the industry and the future of the chiropractic profession looks promising.