Roman, Charles Victor (1864–1934)

By: Paul M. Lucko

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Updated: September 28, 2020

Charles Victor Roman, Black physician, professor, author, and racial leader, was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1864, the son of James William Roman, a canal-boat owner, and Anne Walker McGuin, the daughter of a fugitive slave. He spent much of his childhood in Dundas, Ontario. A knee injury resulted in the amputation of his right leg. He graduated from Hamilton Collegiate Institute in Ontario and in 1886 entered Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Roman graduated from Meharry in 1890 and also received a master of arts in philosophy and history at Fisk University in Nashville. He received postgraduate education at the Medical School of Chicago in 1899 and at the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital and Central London Nose, Throat, and Ear Hospital in England in 1904. He was given honorary doctorates by Paul Quinn College in Waco, Texas, in 1904 and by Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1911. Before entering Meharry, Roman taught briefly in the public schools of Trigg County, Kentucky, and in Tennessee. From 1890 to 1893 he practiced medicine in Clarksville, Tennessee. He practiced in Dallas, Texas, from 1893 until 1904, when he accepted an instructorship in eye, ear, nose, and throat diseases at Meharry, where he remained for the rest of his life. He also taught medical history and ethics and became professor emeritus in 1931. He served as a special lecturer in philosophy at what is now Tennessee State University at Nashville and headed the Department of Health at Fisk University. During World War I Roman was a medical lecturer for the United States Army. He served as the fifth president of the National Medical Association from 1904 to 1905 and edited its publication, the Journal of the National Medical Association, from 1909 until 1919. He served as an associate editor of the National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race in 1919 and was a member of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the Southern Sociological Congress, the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which he served as a lay leader. Roman authored a number of books and articles, including A Knowledge of History is Conducive to Racial Solidarity (1911), Science and Christian Ethics (1913), American Civilization and the Negro (1916), and Meharry Medical College-A History (n.d.). His address "Racial Self-Respect and Racial Antagonism," delivered before the Southern Sociological Congress at Atlanta in 1913, received widespread commendation in publications concerned with racial relations. Through his writings and orations Roman urged African Americans to support Black churches, retail establishments, medical facilities, banks, and schools. He criticized racial prejudice, stressed the contributions of Blacks to American civilization, and maintained that "racial solidarity and not amalgamation is the desired and desirable goal of the American Negro." Roman married Margaret Lee Voorhees of Columbia, Tennessee, in 1891; the couple adopted a daughter. Roman died of a heart attack on August 25, 1934, in Nashville. He was buried at the Greenville Cemetery in that city.

John William Gibson, Progress of a Race, rev. and enlarged by James L. Nichols and William H. Crogman (New York: Arno Press, 1969). Journal of Negro History, January 1935.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Paul M. Lucko, “Roman, Charles Victor,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995
September 28, 2020

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