“The legendary physician, poet, social activist and humanist” — these words have been used to describe Tolbert Small. He has worked as the leading physician for the Oakland based Black Panther Party, setting up their national sickle cell anemia foundation and the George Jackson free clinic.
Pro Bono, he cared for all the rank and file party members, including all of the leadership. Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Elaine Brown, George Jackson, and David Hilliard were all his close friends, comrades, and patients. He was known as “the people’s doctor” and he is now also known as the doctor’s doctor.
Dr. Small was the first outside physician to visit the adjustment center of San Quentin Prison to visit George Jackson, and the adjustment center of Folsom Prison to visit David Hilliard. In1972, he became one of first physicians to visit the People’s Republic of China, and he became one of the first western physicians to practice acupuncture in the United States. He and his wife, Anola Small, co-founded the Harriet Tubman Medical Office, where he began a healing practice in 1980.
As a poet, Bert believes that healing and poetry belong to the people. We hope that this site will provide a bigger glimpse into the history of the civil rights movement, the black panthers, and life as a black person in modern America. There is still a lot of work to do.
“For my family, especially my mother Sammy Woods Small and my father William Monroe Small; they are me and I am them.”