3 Notable Black Nurses Who Changed Nursing

NursingJanuary 06, 2023

Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, current American Nurses Association’s (ANA) national President

January 16 marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and to honor the holiday, we’re taking a look at modern notable African-American nurses who trailblazed for the nurses coming behind them. If you start looking, nursing is full of African-American nurses who tackled adversity and broke barriers to contribute volumes to the field. We profile three of them in honor of MLK Day. 

Lillian Holland Harvey (1912-1994). A registered nurse, Dr. Harvey was known best for being an educator. In 1948 she was appointed dean at Tuskegee University School of Nursing. In that role, she established the institution’s and state’s first Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Dr. Harvey went on to earn her doctorate in education in 1966 from Columbia University and serve on several prominent national commissions and committees, including the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, American Red Cross Advisory Committee on Nursing Service, and Nursing Advisory Committee of the Kellogg Foundation. Her students credited her for her powerful influence on their lives and careers, starting with encouragement to advance their education.  

Mary Elizabeth Carnegie (1916-2008). Like Harvey, Dr. Carnegie was an educator who played an important role in breaking racial barriers. Dr. Carnegie advocated tirelessly for African-American nurses to receive full recognition and access to quality education. Besides being a nurse and educator, Dr. Carnegie also authored three editions of The Path We Tread: Blacks in Nursing Worldwide.

She taught at the School of Nursing at Florida A&M University from 1945-53. Also in 1945, she joined Florida’s chapter of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses—the Florida Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (FACGN), serving as president three years later. She was the first African-American nurse to serve on the board of a state nursing association. From 1978-79, she served as president of the American Academy of Nursing. In 1994, she was named a Living Legend of the Academy, the highest honor one can receive in the nursing profession. 

Ernest Grant (1958-present). Let’s not forget, nursing belongs to men, too. Grant is a distinguished leader in nursing and was the first male nurse to be elected president of the American Nurses Association in 2018, which he still leads. His career began at community college, where he graduated with his LPN. He went on to earn his doctorate in 2015. During his 30-year career in nursing, he has been recognized as an international burn-care expert, and has received a number of honors. Notably, he was awarded Nurse of the Year in 2002 by President George W. Bush for his work with victims of the 9/11 tragedy. 

We thank these change-makers for advocating nursing education for all students. If you’re feeling inspired to explore a career in nursing, Fortis can help you understand your options. Click here for more information or call us today at (855) 436-7847 and speak to one of our career advisors for nursing.

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