Blacks@Dartmouth 1775 to 1960

Cornelius McKane

Physician and founder of hospitals in Georgia and Liberia with Alice Woodby McKane

alumnus image

Dartmouth Medical School

Class of 1892

1891 Univ Vermont Medical College (M.D.)

Born  1862  Georgetown British Guiana

Died 1912 Boston MA

Quotes from Biographical Sources

There is now practicing medicine and surgery a man who traces his lineage directly to King George of Africa. Cornelius McKane is 30 years old, having been born in Georgetown, British Guiana, on February 2, 1862. He received his education in New York city and finished his course in medicine at Dartmouth College. He has been practicing medicine successfully in Savannah for one year.

He is a very intelligent and entertaining man, and speaks enthusiastically of his prospects of going back to his native country, Liberia, and taking along with him a number of teachers and missionaries. His description of Liberia is interesting in the extreme. He says that Monrovia has over 10,000 inhabitants who are happy and contented. His object in life is to establish a medical college in Liberia.

Cornelius McKane is the great-grandson of King Mannah Funacai, one of the native rulers who sold the first territory purchased by the American Colonization Society on the west coast of Africa. From this territory the Republic of Liberia was formed. Funisa, the grandmother of Cornelius McKane and the grand-daughter of the King, was stolen from her native country and sold into slavery in Dutch Guiana, which became the possession of the English. She was converted from paganism to Christianity and married a fellow countryman. Her oldest daughter when she died left two little children, a girl 2 years of age and a boy of 6, Cornelius McKane.

McKane started out from British Guiana at 10 years of age to seek an education. His grandmother made him promise that he would return to the land of his grandmother and great-grandmother and work for the regeneration of his race. McKane had many years of hardships, and when he landed in New York he was penniless and homeless. Moses F. Wester, a devout colored Baptist deacon, took McKane in and sent him to Grammar School No. 28.

McKane graduated with honors and began lecturing on behalf of Liberia. He completed a brief course at the High School and then went to Liberia, where he immediately began the study of native languages and Arabic. He was soon made principal of the City Grammar School at Monrovia and later, principal of the Mission School at Sherbro. There he met Chief Neal Caulker, the executive head of the Sherbro tribes, who put him in a position to discover the youngest sister of his great-grandmother, Twahalla. Upon recognizing the young relative she exclaimed: 'Tok-neh Ebena Allah!' 'You come to bring God!' Young McKane resolved to equip himself for a medical mission. In 1888 he returned to his country to complete his studies, which he did at the Medical University of Vermont and Dartmouth.

A King his Ancestry: A Young Colored Doctor of Savannah [edited]. San Francisco Chronicle. 1892:16.

Other source(s)

  1. Elmore, Charles J. (2004). Black Medical Pioneers in Savannah, 1892-1909: Cornelius McKane and Alice Woodby McKane. The Georgia Historical Quarterly, 88(2), 179–196.
  2. Alice Woodby McKane. Georgia Women of Achievement. Retrieved from

Profile image source: Dartmouth College Photographic Files, Medical School Students.