5 Influential Black Nurses Who Changed The Face of Healthcare

As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s important to remember the many African American nurses who have made major contributions to the field of nursing and healthcare and have helped to shape the system we know today. From the earliest days of the profession to the present, African-American nurses have broken down barriers and made a lasting impact on the career of nursing. Here are five influential African American nurses who have changed the face of healthcare.

  1. Mary Seacole: Seacole was born in Jamaica in 1805 and moved to England in 1854, where she established the “British Hotel” for sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Seacole was an incredible nurse who was able to provide medical and nursing care to the soldiers, some of whom had been rejected by other hospitals. Seacole was a pioneer for African American nurses and her legacy continues to inspire many.
  2. Susie King Taylor: Taylor was born into slavery in Georgia in 1848. After the Civil War, she became the first African American Army nurse and served in the Union Army’s all-black 33rd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. Taylor served as a nurse and teacher for the soldiers, and she wrote a memoir about her experiences that was published in 1902.
  3. Rebecca Lee Crumpler: Crumpler was born in 1831 and was the first African American to receive a medical degree. She was a nurse before she earned her degree and she worked in Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia. Crumpler wrote a book called “Book of Medical Discourses” which was an important resource for African American nurses.
  4. Martha Minerva Franklin: Franklin was born in 1845 and was the first African American nurse to become a member of the American Nurses Association. She worked as a nurse for over 40 years, and she was the first African American to be appointed superintendent of a hospital. Franklin was a strong advocate for racial equality and her work helped open doors for African American nurses.
  5. Bessie Blount Griffin: Griffin was born in 1914 and was a pioneering nurse and inventor. She was the first African American woman to receive a master’s degree in physical therapy. Griffin also invented a device that allowed paralyzed soldiers to feed themselves, and she was the first African American to receive a patent for a medical device.

To learn about other influential African American nurses, read our article featuring four more black women who pioneered their way around and through the sentiments of their time to make a radical impact on the nursing profession.

Happy Black History Month!


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