The history of Black women in the nursing profession is storied and layered – and includes those practitioners who utilized traditional African healing remedies and those who spearheaded new and innovative Western therapies, as well as many who merged the two.  Among the most in-depth and intriguing examinations of Black women in nursing are those by Darlene Clark Hine, Board of Trustees Emeritus Professor of African American Studies and Professor of History at Northwestern University.  Hine once wrote, “If I can impress upon the historical profession how important it is to talk to and illuminate the lives of people who did not leave written records, but who also influenced generations of women all over the globe, then I will feel that my career is worthwhile.The Informer acknowledges Hine’s scholarship and offers a few additional titles as recommended reading material on the power of Black nurses.

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Black Women’s Health Activism in America, 1890-1950

Susan Smith

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired moves beyond the depiction of African Americans as mere recipients of aid or as victims of neglect and highlights the ways black health activists created public health programs and influenced public policy at every opportunity. Smith also sheds new light on the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment by situating it within the context of black public health activity, reminding us that public health work had oppressive as well as progressive consequences.

Health in the City: Race, Poverty, and the Negotiation of Women’s Health in New York City, 1915–1930

Tanya Hart

Shortly after the dawn of the twentieth century, the New York City Department of Health decided to address what it perceived as the racial nature of health. It delivered heavily racialized care in different neighborhoods throughout the city: syphilis treatment among African Americans, tuberculosis for Italian Americans, and so on. It was a challenging and ambitious program, dangerous for the providers, and troublingly reductive for the patients. Nevertheless, poor and working-class African American, British West Indian, and Southern Italian women all received some of the nation’s best health care during this period. Health in the City challenges traditional ideas of early twentieth-century urban black health care by showing a program that was simultaneously racialized and cutting-edge. It reveals that even the most well-meaning public health programs may inadvertently reinforce perceptions of inferiority that they were created to fix.

Black Women in White: Racial onflict and Cooperation in the ursing Profession, 1890-1950

Darlene Clark Hine

Analyzes the impact of racism on the development of the nursing profession in both the northern and southern US. Traces the growth of a parallel networks of hospitals, training schools, and nurses’ associations in reaction to white hospitals excluding black patients, nurses, and doctors. Examines the exploitation of racism in white nurses’ struggles for autonomy, status, and freedom within the white male medical establishment.

Nursing Civil Rights: Gender and Race in the Army Nurse Corps

Charissa J. Threat

In Nursing Civil Rights, Charissa J. Threat investigates the parallel battles against occupational segregation by African American women and white men in the U.S. Army.  As Threat reveals, both groups viewed their circumstances with the Army Nurse Corps as a civil rights matter. Each conducted separate integration campaigns to end the discrimination they suffered. Yet their stories defy the narrative that Civil Rights struggles inevitably arced toward social justice. Threat tells how progressive elements in the campaigns did indeed break down barriers in both military and civilian nursing. At the same time, she follows conservative threads to portray how some of the women who succeeded as agents of change became defenders of exclusionary practices when men sought military nursing careers.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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