(Apr. 9, 1832-July 15, 1902). Samuel A. Elbert was the first African American in Indiana to receive a medical degree. Born in Maryland of free parents, Elbert worked as a field hand and house servant in his youth and did not learn to read and write until his early twenties. During the civil war, he was a servant to a group of white Union officers. He subsequently attended Oberlin College in Ohio and moved to Indianapolis in 1866, teaching for a time in a private Black school supported by Allen Chapel.

Elbert studied medicine privately with two white physicians, one of whom interceded to secure his admission to the newly opened Indiana Medical College in 1869. Although he paid tuition and completed the prescribed course of study, the college initially refused to grant him a degree. The faculty eventually reversed its position, and Elbert received his M.D. in 1871. He was appointed to the Indianapolis Board of Health the following year and also developed a large private practice.

Prominent in the African Methodist Episcopal church, Elbert was also active in Republic Party. He was nominated for state representative in 1882. During the administration of William McKinley, he was offered but declined a consular post in Brazil.

Elbert was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery. His grave was unmarked until members of the Indianapolis Medical Society and the Aesculapian Medical Society placed a headstone at the site in 2013.

Revised November 2021

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