From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Porter, Benjamin F.

(born: 1845  -  died: 1911) 

Dr. B. F. Porter was the 3rd Assistant Physician at the Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum in Louisville, KY in 1896; he was the first African American doctor at the facility. Porter was born in Williamstown, MA; according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census he was the husband of Elizabeth Porter (1843-1910, born in CT) and the father of Wiley Porter (b. 1877 in KY). Dr. Porter received his medical degree in 1878; he also was an 1899 graduate of the College of Hypnotism. The family had lived in Columbia, SC, where Dr. Porter was a minister before coming to Kentucky, according to the 1880 U.S. Federal Census.

While Dr. Porter was employed at the asylum, he and his family lived in the housing provided by the institution. The Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum had been established in 1874 as a state house for "feeble minded children." A third of the appropriations for the facility were to be used for the Colored inmates, who were to be kept in a separate ward from the white inmates. The facility had formerly been the State House of Reform for Juveniles.

Dr. Porter's appointment to the institution by Kentucky Governor William O. Bradley caused a bit of alarm throughout the state when it was reported that Dr. Porter would be treating both Colored and white children. An article by the asylum superintendent, H. F. McNary, published in The Medical News, reassured all that Dr. Porter would only be treating the more than 200 Colored patients. With McNary's published letter, The Medical News editor gave the journal's approval to the hiring of Dr. Porter. In addition to his medical duties, Dr. Porter was also pastor of the African Methodist Church in Louisville.

By 1910 the Porter Family had left Kentucky for Carbondale, IL, where Dr. Porter practiced medicine, was minister of the Bethel A.M.E. Church, and was a member of the Knights and Daughters of Tabor. Dr. Porter was also a veteran; he was a barber when he enlisted in the Union Army on February 10, 1864, serving with the 5th Massachusetts Colored Calvary, according to his military service records.

For more see "Colored Medical Doctors as Attendants in Insane Asylums," The Medical News, vol. 68, January-June 1896, p. 622 [available full-text at Google Books]; "Rev. B. F. Porter," The Daily Free Press, 12/22/1911, p. 5; and Marie Porter Wheeler Papers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library Archives.

For more about the Asylum see Acts Passed at the ... Session of the General Assembly for the Commonwealth, Regular Session, December 1873, Chapter 287, pp. 29-30 [available full-text at Google Books].

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Daily free press (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Medical news. A weekly medical journal
NKAA Source: Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Passed

Related Entries Citing this Entry


Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Porter, Benjamin F.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 12, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-07-05 18:21:31