Nursing history is fascinating. There are so many nurses who have influenced our profession and paved the way for us. This Black History Month, here are 10 nurses whose stories are critical to nursing’s past and future.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
Born into slavery, Sojourner Truth, served as a nurse to the Dumont family. After escaping slavery, she was an advocate for women’s rights and later became a member of the National Freedman’s Relief Association, dedicated to improving Black lives. Truth also promoted nursing education and training programs before Congress. Learn more.
Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)
Well-known for her role in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, Harriet Tubman also used home remedies to nurse soldiers in the hospitals, without pay or pension. Learn more.
Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)
Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first Black RN in the United States. In 1908, she helped establish the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). Learn more.
Jesse Sleet Scales (1865-1956)
Jesse Sleet Scales was a Black public health nurse pioneer who contributed to the practice of public health nursing in New York City during the early 20th
century. Scales set the foundation for Black nurses in community and public health nursing. Learn more.
Martha Minerva Franklin (1870-1968)
An 1897 graduate of nursing school – for which she had to attend out-of-state since Black nursing students were not allowed in Connecticut at the time – Martha Minerva Franklin was one of the first to campaign for racial equality in nursing. Franklin later founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) and served as its first president. Learn more.
Mabel Keaton Staupers (1890-1989)
Mabel Keaton Staupers was an advocate for racial equality in the nursing profession. She was active in ending the U.S. Army’s policy of excluding Black nurses from its ranks in World War II, and successfully lobbied for full integration of the American Nurses Association in 1948. Learn more.
Lillian Holland Harvey (1912-1994)
Lillian Holland Harvey was the director of nurse training at the Tuskegee School for Nurses in 1945, and became the dean of the school in 1948, later transforming the program into a baccalaureate one. Harvey is credited as a “crusader for unrestricted professional recognition during times of racial discrimination and segregation.” Learn more.
Hazel W. Johnson-Brown (1927-2011)
Hazel W. Johnson-Brown also faced racial discrimination and had to travel away from home to attend nursing school. She later became the first Black female general in the U.S. Army and the first Black chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Learn more.
Goldie D. Brangman (born 1920)
Goldie D. Brangman was co-founder, and later, director, of the Harlem Hospital School of Nurse Anesthesia, which opened in 1951. In addition to her many achievements there, Brangman was the first Black CRNA to become a nationally recognized leader in the field; in 1959, she was elected president of the New York Association of Nurse Anesthetists and later served as treasurer and president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. Learn more.
Betty Smith Williams (born 1929)
A champion for diversity, Dr. Williams led a steering committee of Black nurses in 1968 to organize the Council of Black Nurses in Los Angeles. She is a founding member and leader of the National Black Nurses Association and cofounder and first president of the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Association. Learn more.