Books: Non-Fiction

American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics

Book — Non-fiction. By Kevin Hazzard. 2022. 336 pages.
The story of the Freedom House EMS in Pittsburgh, a group of Black men who became America's first paramedics and set the gold standard for emergency medicine around the world.
Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: Health, African American

Until the 1970s, if you suffered a medical crisis, your chances of survival were minimal. A 9-1-1 call might bring police or even the local funeral home. But that all changed with Freedom House EMS [Emergency Medical Services] in Pittsburgh, a group of Black men who became America’s first paramedics and set the gold standard for emergency medicine around the world, only to have their story and their legacy erased — until now.book cover showing a Black man in the back of an ambulance.

In American Sirens, journalist and paramedic Kevin Hazzard tells the dramatic story of how a group of young, undereducated Black men forged a new frontier of healthcare. He follows a rich cast of characters that includes John Moon, an orphan who found his calling as a paramedic; Peter Safar, the Nobel Prize-nominated physician who invented CPR and realized his vision for a trained ambulance service; and Nancy Caroline, the idealistic young doctor who turned a scrappy team into an international leader.

At every turn, Freedom House battled racism — from the community, the police, and the government. Their job was grueling, the rules made up as they went along, their mandate nearly impossible — and yet despite the long odds and fierce opposition, they succeeded spectacularly. [Adapted from publisher’s description.]

ISBN: 9780306926075 | Hachette Books

Author Interview

Listen to an interview with author Kevin Hazzard on NPR’s Fresh Air below.

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