The character of a nurse is as important as the knowledge she possesses. Carolyn Javis
Though Black History Month features many tributes to African Americans in medicine it has finally dawned on me – slowly but surely – that there is a serious absence of programming that celebrates the contributions of Black Nurses! And so the search began….
In short time I found myself immersed in this comprehensive guide to the topic: Black Nurses in History: A Bibliography and Guide to Web Resources: (http://libguides.rowan.edu/blacknurses} The guide is bursting with the stories of African American women who have served with courage the medical profession and the needs of their patients. These women have been powerful in various professional nursing roles – most often as direct care providers who rose to the challenge to serve the needs of their fellow women and men whose health was imperiled by disease, war, childbirth, working conditions, poor nutrition or other threats to their physical or mental wellbeing
The bibliography introduced me to the American Association for the History of Nursing (https://www.aahn.org/feature.html) and to Diane Brownson’s nursing history links: (http://diannebrownson.tripod.com/history.html)
With time, and a few detours, I made my way to some grand stories of little-known, and a couple of famous, African American nurses.
- https://travelnursingcentral.com/blog/nursing/6-famous-african-american-nurses/ – Brief stories of Mary Seacole who served in the Crimean War, Mary Elizabeth Mahoney, the first African American licensed RN, Hazel W. Johnson-Brown, the first African American head of the US Army Nurses Corps, Estelle Massey Osborne, the first African American woman to earn a Master’s degree in Nursing, as well as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, who need no introduction.
- Some of these women and others are profiled in this introduction to “Ten African American Nurses Who Changed the Course of History.” In addition to the women named in the preceding entry this listing includes the stories of Adah Belle Samuel Thomas, Lillian Holland Harvey, Betty Smith Williams, Mabel Keaton Staupers, and Susie King Taylor – edifying stories of some of history’s finest health care providers! http://www.associates-degree-in-nursing.org/10-african-american-nurses-who-changed-the-course-of-history/
- The contributions of some of these women and others chronicled in these article in Minority Nurse: http://minoritynurse.com/making-history-black-nightingales/
There are countless stories yet to be recorded. These are just some ready points of access to stories of nursing pioneers who may propel students of the medical profession, African American history or Women’s history to further explore that cries out for exploration. The hope is that the stories of these committed women will inspire African American women of all ages to pursue careers as nurses and other health care providers.
Today these organizations continue to serve the specific needs of African American nurses:
- The National Black Nurses Association, organized in 1971 under the leadership of Dr. Lauranane Sams, former Dean and Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, Tuskegee University. The NBNA services 150,000 African American nurses with 92 chartered chapters in 35 states.
- The Minnesota chapter of NBNA is the Minnesota Black Nurses Association 2400 Park Avenue South, Suite 181, Minneapolis, MN 55404 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Telephone #: 612-353-5136