Six Black Nurses And Health Care Workers Who Fought For Black Liberation
The stories of these six Black nurses and health care workers teach us to imagine the impossible, to fight for justice, and to collectively build institutions that advance freedom while challenging those that would keep it from us.
Early advances in nursing were made in part thanks to the advocacy of abolitionist and suffragist visionary Sojourner Truth, who worked as a nurse before escaping enslavement.
Best known for her courageous leadership in the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman was also a nurse who served the Union Army and created a home for the aged, specializing in caring for elderly African Americans.
Because she was repeatedly refused entry into nursing school due to her race, Emma Reynolds helped establish the first nursing schools to train Black women in the United States.
Jessie Sleet Scales
A pioneer in the field of public health nursing in the U.S., Jessie Sleet Scales was the first Black district nurse for The Charity Organization Society and published a report in the American Journal of Nursing in 1901 about treating Black tuberculosis patients who were especially hard hit by the disease due to economic and social conditions.
Relentless in her pursuit of justice, Salaria Kea led fights against segregation, exposed unsafe staffing ratios at her hospital, and even traveled overseas to care for the anti-fascist resistance in Europe.
Nine months before Rosa Parks’ historic defiance of segregation, Claudette Colvin — a young, smart, working-class, dark-skinned, Black woman — refused to stand for white supremacy on a Montgomery bus.