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  • Z. Garnett

4 Black Nurses Who Paved the Way in Nursing

As we celebrate Black History Month, we would like to highlight the accomplishments that black nurses have contributed to the nursing industry. Here are a few black nurses that have made a huge impact in nursing:

1.      Harriet Tubman


We all know Harriet Tubman for helping to bring the slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, but did you know that she was also a nurse? Tubman nursed formerly enslaved, liberated black soldiers at a Union camp in South Carolina in 1862. In 1865, she was appointed the matron of the Colored Hospital at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Tubman was known for using natural and herbal remedies to treat her patients.


2.      Mary Ezra Mahoney

Mary Ezra Mahoney was the first Black woman to become a licensed nurse in the United States. Mahoney, who was born to free slaves, received her training at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston in 1879. Much of her 40 year career was spent as a private duty nurse. In 1908, Mahoney co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses which was extremely pivotal at the time because Black nurses were denied from joining the American Nurses Association (ANA). The two organizations would later merge and in honor of her contributions, the ANA created the Mary Mahoney Award.  It is one of the highest honors a nurse can receive.


3.      Estelle Massey Osborne


Estelle Massey Osborne accomplished many firsts in the nursing industry. She attended Columbia University where she was the first black nurse to obtain a Master’s Degree in the United States. She was also the first Black instructor at New York University in 1945. Osborne would go on to be elected as the President of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). In 1946, Osborne received the Mahoney Award for her efforts in broadening opportunities for Black nurses.


4.      Hazel Johnson Brown


Hazel Johnson Brown was became the first black chief of the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) and the first black female brigadier in the United States Army. She was previously denied admission to the Chester School of Nursing due to her color so she received her training at Harlem Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1950.  Johnson-Brown would go on to complete her nursing and master’s degrees and became the first black woman to earn a doctorate degree in the Department of Defense.







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