Juneteenth: Uncovering the Hidden Figures of Nursing

Juneteenth: Uncovering the Hidden Figures of Nursing

Pictured: Mary Jane Seacole


The year 2020 was declared the Year of the Nurse and Midwife – because it marked Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. From Nightingale on, White nurses have been central to the story of the nursing profession—with the substantial contribution of Black nurses missing from nursing textbooks and history.

But no longer will the contributions of Black nurses be overlooked.

Diaspora-wide, from slavery through the COVID-19 pandemic, lead author Dr. Diana Baptiste brought together an incredible 25 Black health care leaders to recognize unseen Black nurses. Inclusive of BIPOC practitioners within the western tradition and without, the editorial notes how, while excluded from the European intellectualism, traditional practitioners inspired empirical science and new scientific inquiry, revolutionizing how we thought about the body and how we healed it. Furthermore, nurses today must recognize our history to diversify the profession and address health disparities.


Hidden figures of nursing: The historical contributions of Black nurses and a narrative for those who are unnamed, undocumented and underrepresented


In honor of Juneteenth, authors Dr. Diana Baptiste, Dr. Shaquita Starks, and Dr. Sasha Turner will discuss the making of the editorial on Instagram Live (@HopkinsNursing) at noon June 17, 2021. For now, read a forward from co-author Nia Josiah, MSN, RN, a 2020 alumna of the MSN (Entry Into Nursing) program.


Bricks and Mortar: A Poem for Our Hidden Figures of Nursing

(*Ase (pronounced as-SHAY): Yoruba word of affirmation meaning power, command, authority to make things happen; produce change; “so it is”).


We are the bricks and mortar of a narrative untold.
Enslaved, Unnamed, undocumented, underrepresented...
Our invaluable contributions worthy to be extolled.


“Nurse Flora”, “Old Sarah,” or “Mammy Rachel”
Doctresses, Practitioners, Nurses, and Midwives…
We are the original Black healers who cared for the sick across racial and social divides.


Rooted in the motherland, our herbal remedies pass down from generation to generations,
Healing methods and traditions venerated, combatted foreign diseases plaguing many nations.  


We are the bricks and mortar of a narrative untold.
Enslaved, Unnamed, undocumented, underrepresented…
Our invaluable contributions worthy to be extolled.


Enslaved, cared for “Massa family, even nursed deh baby,”
Fearlessly ran Underground to freedom, returned to lead others held in bondage to safety.
Abolitionists, Suffragists, Activists and Advocates…
We are the original “Black Angels” who cared for the sick when our White counterparts refused and called it quits!


Historically, Black nurses served on the frontlines with efforts only to be diminished and identities cached.


We are the bricks and mortar of a narrative untold.
Enslaved, Unnamed, undocumented, underrepresented…
Our invaluable contributions worthy to be extolled.


We continue to rise in a nursing profession that marginalizes, minimalizes, subjugates and dispossesses our medical contributions…
We continue to rise like the phoenix from the ashes of our buried, untold and forgotten history…
We rise unearthing and disseminating the priceless contributions of Black nurses both past and present.




*Join as we evoke divine force, energy and power from BIPOC nurse pioneers, trailblazers, innovators, and nurses who are presently claiming their place in nursing history.


Say Their Names!

  • Paula de Eguiluz (undocumented 17th century African decent healer)
  • Sojourner Truth (1797–1883)
  • Mary Jane Seacole (1805-1881)
  • Harriet Tubman (1820–1913)
  • Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)
  • The Black Angels (1928-1960)

Say Their Names! BIPOC nurse pioneers, trailblazers, and innovators

  • Susie Taylor King (1848-1912)
  • Cecilia Makiwane (1880–1919)
  • Nancy Cornelius Skenandore (1861-1908)
  • Dr. Hattie M. Bessent (1908-2015)
  • Kofoworola Abeni Pratt- Hon. FRCN (1915 –1992)
  • Mary Starke Harper (1919-2006)



Say Their Names!

  • Goldie D. Brangman (1917-2020)
  • Docia Kisseih (1919- 2008)
  • Ildaura MurilloRohde (1920-2010)
  • Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown (1927-2011)
  • Rhetaugh Etheldra Graves Dumas (1928-2007)
  • Daphne Steele (1929-2004)
  • Esther E. McCready (1931-2020)
  • Barbara Hillary (1931-2019)



Say Their Names! BIPOC nurses who are claiming their place in nursing history

  • Ernest Grant
  • Beverly Malone
  • Sister Freda Robinson
  • Phyllis Sharps
  • Fannie Gaston-Johansson
  • Shelia D. Tlou
  • Congresswoman Lauren Underwood
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson
  • Sally Goold
  • Rachel Robinson



Read more:



Nia Adimu-Ceja Josiah is a 2020 alumna of the MSN (Entry into Nursing) program, and current DNP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner student at Columbia University. At Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, she was a member of the Black Student Nurses Association, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee, and the Social Justice Action Team. Nia is a Palliative Care Research Assistant on the Hillman Research Study ICU team led by Dr. Rebecca Wright. Nia is also a Teaching Assistant for Columbia University’s General Simulation. Nia works fulltime as a travel Neuropsychiatric registered nurse.

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