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Rachel Boone Keith Papers

Identifier: UP002117

Scope and Content

Dr. Keith’s papers consist of published materials documenting her education and professional career, including materials relating to her medical practice, honorary degrees and other awards she received, and the civic, cultural, and educational institutions and activities with which she was associated. There are also materials and physical objects relating to Dr. Keith’s maternal aunt, Bessie B. Tharps, who was a pioneering African-American woman doctor, and relating to Dr. Keith’s father’s family, the Boones. The Boones included several generations of ministers, including Dr. Keith’s father who served as a medical missionary in Liberia.

Important Subjects: African American physicians Detroit (Mich.). Dept. of Health Houghton College Missionaries – Africa National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit Branch

Important Names: Clinton C. (C. C.) Boone Dr. Ethelene Crockett Philip A. Hart Bessie Beatrice Tharps Jackie Vaughn III

Series Description: Series I: Rachel Boone Keith Files, 1937-2007: Correspondence and media references to Dr. Keith and her family and material related to her medical practice, honorary degrees and other awards she received, and to civic, cultural, and educational institutions and activities with which she was associated.

Series II: Audiovisual Materials, 1989-2002: Seven videocassettes, all but one of which concern the Boone or Tharps families and all of which are VHS unless noted otherwise.

Series III: Memorabilia, n.d.: A doctor’s bag and personal items from Dr. Tharps. One certificate from the State of Michigan.


  • 1937 - 2007
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 2006


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.


Dr. Rachel Boone Keith was born in Liberia to U.S. missionaries on May 30, 1924 and came to the United States at the age of three. She graduated as valedictorian of Armstrong High School in Richmond, Virginia in 1938 and, after the death of her mother that year, went to live with her aunt, Dr. Bessie B. Tharps, in Rhode Island. Rachel Boone Keith graduated magna cum laude from Houghton University in upstate New York in 1943, completed post-graduate studies in biology at Brown University, and attained her medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine in 1949.

Dr. Keith completed her internship at Harlem Hospital and served at Brooklyn’s Coney Island Hospital before moving to Detroit in 1951. Dr. Keith completed a two-year residency in internal medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital in 1953, and in 1954 joined the staff at Detroit Memorial Hospital and entered private practice. During her 50 years of practice, Dr. Keith was also affiliated with Burton Mercy, Detroit Riverview, Detroit Receiving, Harper, Hutzel, and Sinai hospitals.

Dr. Keith served on a number of professional commissions and committees, including the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education and the City of Detroit’s Health Advisory Council. Dr. Keith was active in many civic, cultural, and educational organizations. She served as a board member for the Michigan Cancer Foundation and for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and was also a member of Tabernacle Missionary Church and a lifetime member of the NAACP.

Dr. Keith married Damon J. Keith in 1953 and had three daughters: Cecile Keith-Brown, Debbie, and Gilda. Dr. Keith died on January 4, 2007.


4.5 Linear Feet (7 MB, 1 SB)


Dr. Rachel Boone Keith came to Detroit from New York City in 1951 after receiving her medical degree from Boston University and was an internist in private practice from that point forward, practicing medicine at several Detroit area hospitals. Dr. Keith served on a number of professional commissions and committees and was active in civic, cultural, and educational organizations, including her work as a lifetime member of the NAACP. Dr. Keith’s papers document her education, professional career, and civic activities as well as containing information on her father’s and mother’s families, the Booths and Tharps, and their service as doctors, missionaries, and religious ministers.


The Rachel Boone Keith Papers are arranged into three series: Series I (Boxes 1-6), Series II (Box 7), and Series III (Box 8). Series I is arranged alphabetically by subject. Series II is arranged alphabetically by title.


The papers of Rachel Boone Keith were placed in the Walter P. Reuther Library in July 2007 by Damon J. Keith as part of the Damon J. Keith Papers. They were processed as a separate collection and opened for research in August 2010.

Related Materials

JCA Sinai Hospital Records, Damon J. Keith Papers, The Oral History Collection at the Walter P. Reuther Library: Kellogg African American Health Care Project, Harper Hospital Records, and Hutzel Hospital Records


Series II: Audiovisual Materials (Box 7) have been transferred to the Audiovisual Department.

Processing History

Finding aid written by Byron S. Collier on August 2, 2010.
Guide to the Rachel Boone Keith Papers
Processed by Byron S. Collier.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA