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ExhibitionNursing and Respectability: Nursing and Race

The legacy of slavery in the United States kept apart African American nurses from their White counterparts; nurses trained in separate schools and worked in segregated hospitals. Despite the obstacles, African American nurses made meaningful contributions to patients and the profession. However, evidence of their accomplishments within this postcard collection is scarce.

  • Twenty-six African American female nursing students sitting on steps.

    Nurses of the Lincoln School for Nurses sit for a class photo, New York, 1930

    Produced by the Lincoln School for Nurses

    The Lincoln School was founded in 1898 as a training school for African American women; it became the Lincoln School for Nurses in 1902, when it was one of ten such schools in the United States. By the 1930s, it had become highly regarded as one of the top training schools nationwide.

  • An African American female nurse in white holding a White infant, looking at the viewer.

    Nurse and baby, United States, ca. 1910

    Whites-only hospitals would not hire trained African American nurses. As a result, many African American nurses worked in private employment as children’s nannies and personal nurses. To overcome professional isolation, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses formed in 1908 to advocate for equal employment opportunities and career rights.

  • An African American female little person nurse holding a White infant and sitting outside.

    Red Cross nurse and baby, United States, ca. 1910

    Produced by Photo-Roto Inc., New York

    Whites-only hospitals would not hire trained African American nurses. As a result, many African American nurses worked in private employment as children’s nannies and personal nurses. To overcome professional isolation, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses formed in 1908 to advocate for equal employment opportunities and career rights.

  • African American female nurse holding a White infant in a basket on her lap.

    Nurse and baby, Oblong, IL, 1910

    Whites-only hospitals would not hire trained African American nurses. As a result, many African American nurses worked in private employment as children’s nannies and personal nurses. To overcome professional isolation, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses formed in 1908 to advocate for equal employment opportunities and career rights.