Dr. Thomas Joiner White was born around 1827 in Petersburg, Virginia. His father Rev. Sampson White was a Baptist minister. Dr. White’s family moved to New York in 1840. Dr. White studied medicine at Bowdoin Medical College in Maine, under the supervision of Dr. W. C. Roberts. Dr. White graduated M.D. in 1849 and he practiced medicine in New York City. Incidentally that was the same year that Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York. She was the first female to graduate from medical school in the United States.
Dr. White was listed on the 1850 U.S. Census as a practicing physician living in a boarding house. According to the 1855 census, Dr. White was still working in New York City and living with his father and Elizabeth White (unknown relation). Dr. White was an activist who served as Secretary of the Legal Rights Association and the Committee of Thirteen, a black anticolonizationist and vigilance organization.
Dr. White married Emma J. Gloucester in New York City on the 4th of February, 1857. Mrs. White was born in Pennsylvania in 1837, the eldest of 8 children born to Rev. James Newton Gloucester and the former Elizabeth A. Parkhill. Her father was a Presbyterian clergyman. Her parents moved to New York City after her birth and her siblings were born in New York. Her siblings were; Jeremiah (who died in 1841 at the age of 10 months), Stephen (1842-1856) , Elizabeth, Eloise, Adelaide, James, Alfred (1854-1859) and Charles. Mrs. White and her sisters Eloise and Adelaide attended and graduated from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio where they studied “Young Ladies Courses”. Mrs. White graduated in 1856. According to the college website, Oberlin College was one of the first colleges in the United States to admit African-American students and it was the first to admit women in 1837.
Dr. and Mrs. White moved to Hamilton, Ontario shortly after their marriage. They moved to Chatham, Ontario in 1859. In the 1861 Census, Dr. and Mrs. White are listed as living in the Town of Chatham and they had an infant daughter Elizabeth.
Dr. T. Joiner White appears in the 1861-1862 Great Western Railway Directory and Gazetteer as practicing in Chatham on King Street.
In the summer of 1863, Dr. White was still living in Chatham and he was preparing to return to the United States, when he died of Cholera on the 09th of August.
A letter was found in Dr. White’s coat pocket upon his death. It read as follows:
“A few days ago I seemed to be in the full enjoyment of health and life-but, alas, how changed now, for Saturday last I was attacked with “Cholera Morbus,” and just as I supposed I was about well of that erysipelas of the face, claims me as a victim. This last disease will most likely terminate my earthily career. O Lord, if thou hast ordered it so to be, Thy will be done-One favor I would ask and that is, that you, my little child, may always enjoy Thy especial care; early may she learn to love Thee and always walk in Thy paths. Lord bless my dear Mother, my Wife and my beloved Father. Oh, God! Bless the cause of human liberty-may colored men prove themselves worthy of the trust committed to their hands, viz: the emancipation of their race from slavery-Strike the oppressor wherever you find him. Freedom now or never. I was just endeavoring to consummate arrangements with the Secretary of War whereby I should have returned to my native land and joined some of the “colored troops of the U.S.” But my Lord and Master, it seems intends taking me to himself-glory be to His holy name. Chatham, July 10th, A.D. 1863. I should like to be buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.”
Dr. White was buried at the Green-Wood Cemetery (Section 31, Lot 9817) in Brooklyn, New York. After the death of her husband, Mrs. White returned to New York with their 2 children, Elizabeth and Edward. According to the 1865 census Mrs. White was living in Brooklyn, New York with her 2 children and she was a school teacher. Mrs. White was remarried to a gentleman with the surname of Blanchard. They had a daughter named Emma Blanchard in 1875. Mrs. White-Blanchard died on the 21st of December, 1885 in New York. She was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery.
Reference: The Black Abolitionist Papers, Volumn II, Canada 1830-1865, published in 1986.
*Special Thanks to Bryan Prince for his research assistance.