Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Wright, Charles H.

Charles Howard Wright was an accomplished Detroit physician and founder of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Born in Dothan, Alabama on September 20, 1918, Wright attended Alabama State College, obtained his M.D. from Meharry Medical School in 1943, and served an internship at Harlem Hospital in New York.

Dr. Wright practiced general medicine in Detroit for four years, starting in 1946. He went back to Harlem for a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology before returning to Detroit in 1955 where he was certified as an OB-GYN specialist and general surgeon. He became an emeritus attending at Harper-Grace Hospital, and a senior attending physician at Sinai Hospital. Wright also worked at Wayne State University Medical School from 1969-1983 as an assistant clinical professor. He later became a senior attending physician at Hutzel Hospital, eventually retiring in 1986.

Wright was active in social issues and was a lifelong member of the NAACP. He started the African Medical Education Fund through the Detroit Medical Society and served as a physician during civil rights marches in Louisiana in 1965. He traveled to West Africa to perform medical surveys, and to Columbia to work on a floating hospital, the S.S. Hope. Wright wrote several books on African Americans, including The National Medical Association Demands Equal Opportunity: Nothing More, Nothing Less, published in 1995, on the health care system in Detroit.

Dr. Wright’s most notable achievement in the City of Detroit was founding the Museum of African American History. It began as the International Afro-American Museum, located in part of his office on West Grand Boulevard. Feeling the need for a museum to commemorate, preserve and promote the history of African Americans, Dr. Wright led a partnership of 30 people in 1965 to establish the museum. Wright was inspired by a monument to World War II heroes in Denmark. Wright’s new museum included African masks from Nigeria and Ghana and information on notable African American Detroiters.

In 1978, the City of Detroit provided land for a museum in Midtown and funds were raised for a new building that opened in 1987 at 301 Frederick Street. The name was changed to the Museum of African American History. When the museum outgrew that facility, Detroit voters approved a bond for a third building at 315 E. Warren in the University Cultural Center, which opened in 1997 - the largest African American history museum in the world. A year later it was renamed the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in honor of Dr. Wright.

Charles Wright was married to Louise Lovett, with whom he had two children. Following Lovett’s death, he married Roberta Hughes in 1989. Dr. Wright died on March 7, 2002 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.