Michael M. Karl



Interview Date


Biographical History

Michael M. Karl was born in 1915 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received his M.D. from the University of Louisville in 1938. Karl joined the faculty of Washington University's department of medicine in 1941, where he was widely viewed as an outstanding teacher. He was named director of clinical affairs in the Department of Medicine in 1987. He was also a member of the clinical faculty at Barnes Hospital and in the early 1960s he successfully led the movement to eliminate the all-Black wards, 0300 and 0400.

Karl was one of few general internists to become a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He was a master of the American College of Physicians (ACP), governor of the ACP for the State of Missouri and received the ACP Laureate Award in 1988.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Karl to the national advisory committee of the White House Conference on the Family from 1978-1980, where he was among the first to call for family leave protections for working parents. He also worked for the establishment of national health insurance for all people regardless of their capacity to pay. In St. Louis, he was the co-organizer of one of the first health services for the poor, the Jeff-Vander-Lou Medical Clinic.


An interview of the Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project, conducted by Edwin W. McCleskey and associates, 1990. Approximate Length: 11 minutes.

Michael Karl discusses the ways in which hospitals were segregated in St. Louis when he first came to the city in the 1930s, and how the desegregation of Barnes Hospital came about.

Karl begins by addressing the status of segregated medical facilities in St. Louis in the early 1930s and 1940s and then discusses the desegregation of Barnes Hospital and the elimination of the segregated wards for Black patients, Wards 0300 and 0400. He remarks on the role the hospital boards played in preventing the hospital from desegregating, and the similarities and differences between the Black and white wards.

Karl also discusses the high level of medical care for Black patients at Barnes Hospital and some Black physicians who worked at Barnes.

He says he believes Barnes was integrated in 1962, however the exact date when the hospital was fully integrated is not known.


Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project


Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives


Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri

PC054-S08-B01-F18-i02_Michael_M_Karl_oral_history_audio_recording.mp3 (10209 kB)
Michael M. Karl Oral History Audio