My Journey In Learning My History: Celebrating Black Nurses In History

I want to be a veterinarian.

That was exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. That changed when I was in year 2 of college. On academic probation and one more F away from being kicked out of school. I woke up one day and decided to go to nursing school. Not because I had ever wanted to be a nurse. Not because I knew what nursing was. Not because I even loved nursing as a profession. But because I wanted a career when I graduated. The only thing I did know about nursing is that my grandmother worked the night shift. “You should be nurse,” she would always say. “I don’t want to be a nurse; I want to be a veterinarian.” So, it’s no surprise that when I was accepted into the program, I asked the administrator one question. WHY?  

Well here goes nothing.

Florence Nightingale one of the most well known nurses in history. She was the first person I learned about in nursing school. I believe they taught us about some other people but I don’t remember them. As I was brainstorming for this very post, I came across some names. Names I am ashamed to admit I had never heard before. Names as a nurse I should have known. Names as an Army Veteran Nurse I should have known. But mostly names as a biracial, black and white, woman I should have known. By the way, I eventually started to understand nursing. I grew to love nursing. I realized nursing is what I am meant to do.

Nursing chose me; I did not choose nursing.

The thing I loved most about nursing is that its more than medicine. It’s the act of kindness. It’s the caring presence. It’s the loving touch. It’s the comforting voices. Harriett Tubman utilized herbal medicine to treat wounded soldiers during the American Civil War. As much as I enjoy modern medicine, herbal and naturopathic medicine is an area of great passion. My first nursing job was in the United States Army. As an Army Nurse I should have known the name of Hazel W. Johnson-Brown. The first black women Brigadier General of the Army Nurse Corp. What about Mabel Keaton Staupers? She helped with desegregating the US Army Nurse Corps and the American Nurses Association. I should have known about Lillian Holland Harvey, the dean of Tuskegee University, who established their Bachelors of Science in Nursing Degree. I will say I had the pleasure of visiting Tuskegee University in the 4th grade. I don’t remember much from that visit so maybe I learned about her. Did you know the first registered black nurse was Mary Eliza Mahoney? Yeah, you did! Well thank you for listening to my sudden acquisition of knowledge. February is black history month.

Learning our history is key to understanding our future.

12 Leaders in Nursing and Medicine to Honor This Black History

A celebration of 14 Famous Black Nurses in History

Black History Month- Notable Nurses Throughout History

Honoring African American Nurses During Black History Month

7 Black Nurses Who Changed History Forever

African American Nursing: Making History



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