February, Black History Month
This article links aspects of nursing history to the celebration of Black History Month. My purpose is to show important patterns and relationships that are characteristic of the experiences of Blacks in nursing and in the larger economy and society. Our journey in the profession runs parallel to our journey in the larger society.
This year marks the 80th Anniversary of celebrating Black history in the United States. In 1926 Carter G. Woodson organized Negro History Week with the intent of building racial pride and increasing public awareness of the contributions of Blacks to American history and society. It should be noted that leading up to the 1920s, hatred and racist violence against Blacks included widespread lynching that only became rare after the start of World War II. February was designated as Black History Month in 1976. Initially, February was selected because it included the birthdates of two pivotal individuals in our history: President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Dr. Woodson is called the father of Black History. He was the first African American to earn a PhD in History at Harvard in 1912. His book, The Mis-Education of the Negro, (1933), is the definitive critique of how the education system has failed African-descendants in the United States with respect to socialization, race consciousness and other aspects of serving our group interests and supporting our development.
There are several historic connections that can be made between the celebration of Black History Month and nursing history. In 1879 Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first colored graduate in nursing when she graduated from Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children. Frederick Douglass was a distant cousin of hers. Mary Mahoney started a career of crusading for education and opportunities for colored nurses. She worked to end segregation in employment in which colored nurses could do private duty nursing or...