Louise Celia Fleming

Louise Celia "Lulu" Fleming (1862–1899) was a medical doctor and one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.[1] She returned from Africa to improve her skills and she was the first African-American woman to be commissioned for work in Africa by the Woman's American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society.[2]

Louise Celia Fleming
Dr. Louise Celia “Lulu” Fleming
Born(1862-01-28)January 28, 1862
Fleming Island, Florida
DiedJune 20, 1899(1899-06-20) (aged 37)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Alma materShaw College, Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia
OccupationPhysician, Missionary


Fleming was born on January 28, 1862[3] to slave parents on Col. Lewis Michael Fleming's Hibernia Plantation in Hibernia,[4] Clay County, Florida in 1862.[5][6] She converted to Christianity at age 15 at the Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Jacksonville.[4] She was encouraged to attend university and graduated from Shaw University in 1885.[5] Fleming obtained a basic education and became a public school teacher in Saint Augustine, Florida.[5][7]

In 1886 the Woman’s Baptist Foreign Mission Society of the West invited Flemming to become their missionary representative to the Congo. She accepted the invitation and arrived in the Congo in 1887, stationed at Palabala.[6][8] She worked in the Congo with girls, teaching Sunday school, primary classes and English classes.[8] Flemming returned to the United States in 1891 in order to regain her health.[6][8]

The same year, with the idea of alleviating illness in the Congo, she enrolled in the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1895.[5]

Flemming returned to her mission in the Congo, becoming the only African-American woman doctor in the country.[5] In 1898 Fleming contracted African trypanosomiasis[2] and returned to the United States.[3] Fleming died on June 20, 1899[3] at the Samaritan Hospital in Philadelphia at the age of 37.[6][8]


  1. Black women in America. Hine, Darlene Clark. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2005. ISBN 9780195156775. OCLC 57506600.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. "LuLu Fleming, medical missionary". African American Registry. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  3. "This Day in Black History: Jan. 28, 1862". BET.com. BET Networks. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
  4. Kurian, George Thomas (2016). Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States, Volume 5. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 897. ISBN 1442244321.
  5. "Fleming, Louise Celia "Lulu" (1862-1899)". BlackPast.org. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  6. "Lulu Cecilia Fleming, M.D." American Baptist Churches USA. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  7. Van Broekhoven, Deborah (2013). "Women's History Month" (PDF). American Baptist Historical Society (ABHS).
  8. "Fleming, Louise Cecelia". dacb.org. Center for Global Christianity and Mission at Boston University School of Theology. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
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