On this day in 1881, the first school of record for black student nurses is established at Spelman Seminary (renamed Spelman College) in Atlanta, Georgia.
Nurses are oftentimes unsung heroes that are left in the shadows of doctors who get much of the credit. Throughout the history of this country, Black nurses have been at the forefront taking care of the sick and wounded. From the plantation to the battlefield to the ER, their skills, hard work, dedication and sacrifices, have helped to shape and advance the field of medicine. And I thank you….
Here’s a little bit about 6 famous African American nurses, who will hopefully be an inspiration for future generations of nurses and travel nurses:
Although she encountered discrimination, Jamaican-born Seacole was instrumental to pioneering nursing and medical care in the 1800s. She traveled on her own dime to treat wounded soldiers from both sides during the Crimean War, and also established a boarding house where injured patients could recover and rehabilitate.
Mary Eliza Mahoney
There were many who functioned as nurses before her, but Mahoney was the first African American licensed registered nurse. After graduating in 1879 and practicing, she went on to cofound the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses and was also one of the original members of an early incarnation of the American Nurses Association.
Her name is synonymous with the Underground Railroad and women’s rights activism, but Tubman was also a nurse who served the Union Army. In 1908 she also created the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which specialized in caring for elderly African Americans.
Born into slavery in 1797, she’s known mostly as an abolitionist and women’s rights activist, but Truth was originally a nurse for the family she served. Later in life she was instrumental in advocating for funding for essential nurse training programs.
Hazel W. Johnson-Brown
Twice named the Army Nurse of the Year, Johnson-Brown faced down racial discrimination to become a nurse (eventually with a Master’s and PhD. Her skill led her to become the first African American woman to lead the US Army Nurse Corps and also the first to be promoted to brigadier general.
Estelle Massey Osborne
The first African American woman to earn a Master’s degree in Nursing, she fought throughout her life for visibility and educational equality for all nurses.
There are SO many more great examples, but we hope this list of 6 famous African American nurses is inspirational.