Black Cross Nurses

Black Cross Nurses (officially the Universal African Black Cross Nurses ) is an international organization of nurses who was founded in 1920, based on the model of the Red Cross . The organization Was the women’s auxiliary of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League and Was Established to Provide health services and education to people of African descent.


In 1920, Henrietta Vinton Davis established the Black Cross Nurses (BCN) in Philadelphia as an auxiliary of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA). The BCN served as an auxiliary of the UNIA, placing women in a supportive role, while serving in a protective role. [1] Marcus Garvey wanted everyone in the UNIA to feel they belonged within the organization, and the BCN served that purpose for women. [2]

The BCN was based on the World War I nursing model of the Red Cross . Local chapters were established with a matron, head nurse, secretary and treasurer to provide health services and hygiene education to black members of the community. [3] Few programs that would have been accepted to provide support to women and men. [4] one of the goals of the organization was addressing these discrepancies. Doctors, nurses and lay practitioners took care of the day. In addition, upon graduation from the race, each member is required to purchase and wear their official uniform.[5]

In many ways, the organization functions a social reform movement, while developing role models for young women. [6] It promoted education, good health and hygiene, juvenile rehabilitation, maternal and infant care, [7] and training in proper nutrition. It also provides a professional, organized structure for members, [8] giving them a way to appear in roles of public leadership. [9] In articles which appeared in the Negro World , nurses addressed to a wide variety of topics of concern to expectant mothers to contagious diseases, heart disease, and hygiene, and to the symptoms, and treatment options. [10] Benevolent community service [11]included distributing clothing and food to those in need. [6]

UNIA, between 15 and 45 years old, and Negro blood and African descent. [12] Nurses were also required to read and write in order to promote literacy in their communities and serve as examples to others. [13] As an overriding goal, the organization used social health concerns of the race to degeneracy, believing that by creating a healthy living environment, the community would prosper. [14] Units quickly formed in cities across the United States, as well as in The Caribbean and Central America . [15]

In the early 1920s, the United States UNIA organizations spread into thirty-eight states, [16] and membership in the Black Cross Nurses was in the tens of thousands. [17] The largest branch in the world was located in Harlem . [18]Within a few years of the formal organization of the Black Cross Nurses, there were chapters in Alabama, [19] Chicago, California, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, [19] with international chapters in Belize , [20]Nova Scotia , Panama , [19] Trinidad and Tobago . [21]By 1927, membership had declined, but the Black Cross Nurses provided education for African-American nurses and health care access to African Americans in their communities through the 1960s. [22]


All white uniforms including dress, shoes, stockings and a cape adorned with a black cross encircled by a green background. Duty uniforms. Green was chosen as a representation of growth and renewal. [23] Criticism of the dress and cape stemmed from a comparison to a uniform, while UNIA men’s uniform resembled military attracts. [6]

Ancillary responsibilities of the BCN included singing in a choir and marching in parades. Choir rehearsals were on Friday. Marching practice was very important in the field of parade, and the Fourth of July, [24] sometimes carrying the Black Nationalist flag . [25]

International chapters


The Belize Black Cross Nurses was established in British Honduras in 1920 by Vivian Seay , who led the organization in 1971. [26] Dr. K. Simon, medical officer for the Cayo District, moved to Belize Town in 1921, and instructing members of the UNIA in midwifery, to combat the high mortality rates for infants and mothers. Belize Town Public Hospital matron Lois M. Roberts, an Englishwoman, in general hospital procedures and hygiene. As Roberts had been unable to secure sufficient nurses for her training program, she agreed to accept the Black Cross Nurses. [27]By 1922, seventeen of the first class of twenty nurses passed their exams and were awarded their nursing certificates. By 1923, there were twenty-four certified nurses, who were assigned to the territory of Belize Town to administer the needs of the poor, as unpaid volunteers. [28]

In the aftermath of the 1931 Belize hurricane , the Nurses helped the Public Hospital and in relief camps. An annual event called the Baby Exhibition , was a competition to award healthy infants in various age categories and display proper parenting to the populace. It has been a popular event which has been raised in the public perception of the nurses as professionals, since they have questioned the issue, and the approval of the government, since the colonial medical authorities determined the winners. [29] They also conducted studies and research on the health of communities, [19] Palace Unemployed Women ‘s Fund, aimed at providing groceries to unemployed mothers. [31]

Seay, and thus the organization, were staunchly in opposition to universal suffrage . [26] On the one hand, They Sought Victorian morality as a means clustering to Improve society as a whole and Were rigidly Opposed to the base coats of the lower classes while on the other, They expanded women’s spheres from dans le confines of domesticity . [26] For the first time, middle-class black women, who were trained as nurses, were publicly active and held positions of community leadership. [9] The Attempts to control others’ morality Were not always appreciated [30] and Seay’s political involvement and party politics est devenu divisive points qui reflected on the nurses.[32] In the attempt to maintain order, Seay’s policies excluded poor and working-class women, while at the same time strengthening middle-class Creole political worth. [33]

But the organization never came under government control, by 1952 the Black Cross Nurses had influenced the health policies of seven of the colonial governors of British Honduras. [34] It was the most active and lasting organization in the country, [35] and though it lost momentum after Sea Life was revived in the 1980s and continued to serve the needs of the community. [36]


The Black Cross Nursing Organizations of Cuba were mostly found in the areas where British West Indians and the United Fruit Company were members of the United Fruit Company . [37] The organization in Banes, Cuba , was developed as an avenue to create acceptance and respectability for blacks, promoting Pan-Africanism . [38] The organization thrived until 1932 when the combination of economic depression and rising Cuban Nationalism turned to labor militancy and communism. [39]

The Black Cross Nursing organization of Jamaica Was Organized in 1922. Sarah Grant, Who HAD trained students at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, 29 trained nurses, though Their training Remained rudimentary and the organization Was always a volunteer auxiliary qui Did not Develop into a strong organization. [40] [41]


In Canada, the Black Cross Nursing Organized Attendance at a World War I Attempt to Attend Wounded Soldiers. The women organized to provide medical assistance, the first aid, the health care, the nutrition education and other services. [42] Approximately 25% of the population of Canada joined the Universal Negro Improvement Association of Canada and a high percentage of those members of the West Indian heritage, [43] possibly due to the strong identification of people from the Caribbean with the British color-class system: white rulers; brown, mixed-race middle class; and black, laboring lower class. [44]However, another important factor is the higher education and political awareness of Caribbean-born immigrants compared with other black Canadians. [45] West Indians who immigrated as a whole were ambitious and wanted to improve their communities. [46] The BCN organization served to reinforce these ideals, moving many people from Canada to other countries, though not in Canada. The majority of Canadian higher education and hospital organizations for training women in the United States. [47] The nurses were a vital part of providing health services to the black communities of Montreal, [48]Ontario, Nova Scotia and other provinces. Throughout Canada, UNIA divisions were established in 32 cities and towns, [49] but almost all had waned by the 1940s. [50]


  1. Jump up^ Summers 2005, p. 137.
  2. Jump up^ Haskins et al. 2003, p. 117.
  3. Jump up^ Keller, Ruether & Cantlon 2006, p. 1078.
  4. Jump up^ Duncan 2009, p. 134.
  5. Jump up^ Duncan 2009, p. 135.
  6. ^ Jump up to:c Franklin 2001 , p. 97.
  7. Jump up^ Macpherson 2007, p. 74.
  8. Jump up^ Duncan 2009, p. 136.
  9. ^ Jump up to:b Macpherson 2007 , p. 75.
  10. Jump up^ Duncan 2009, p. 152.
  11. Jump up^ Garvey 1987, p. 362.
  12. Jump up^ “Auxillaries” . Cleveland, Ohio: The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League . Retrieved 28 January 2016 .
  13. Jump up^ Duncan 2009, p. 140.
  14. Jump up^ Macpherson 2007, pp. 87-89.
  15. Jump up^ “People & Events: Women in the Garvey Movement” . Public Broadcasting Service . American Experience. 1999-2000 . Retrieved 28 January 2016 .
  16. Jump up^ Van Leeuwen, David (October 2000). Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association . Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: National Humanities Center . Retrieved 30 January 2016 .
  17. Jump up^ Duncan 2009, p. 127.
  18. Jump up^ Hammett & Hammett 2012, p. 69.
  19. ^ Jump up to:c Duncan 2009 , p. 137.
  20. Jump up^ Macpherson 2007, pp. 75, 91.
  21. Jump up^ Martin 1984, p. 78.
  22. Jump up^ Duncan 2009, p. 159.
  23. Jump up^ Duncan 2009, pp. 145-146.
  24. Jump up^ Taylor & Moore 2003, p. 205.
  25. Jump up^ Wiggins 1990, p. 95.
  26. ^ Jump up to:c Macpherson 2007 , p. 91.
  27. Jump up^ Macpherson 2007, pp. 93-94.
  28. Jump up^ Macpherson 2007, p. 94.
  29. Jump up^ Macpherson 2003, p. 515.
  30. ^ Jump up to:b Macpherson 2003 , p. 516.
  31. Jump up^ Macpherson 2003, p. 518.
  32. Jump up^ Macpherson 2003, p. 520.
  33. Jump up^ Macpherson 2003, p. 522.
  34. Jump up^ Macpherson 2003, p. 514.
  35. Jump up^ Appiah & Gates 2005, p. 420.
  36. Jump up^ Williams & Buckley 2013, p. 36.
  37. Jump up^ Sullivan 2014, p. 232.
  38. Jump up^ Sullivan 2014, p. 246.
  39. Jump up^ Sullivan 2014, p. 255.
  40. Jump up^ “Sarah Grant Dies” . Kingston Gleaner ‘ . Kingston, Jamaica. January 13, 1992. p. 18 . Retrieved 30 January 2016 – via .
  41. Jump up^ “Black Cross Nurse of Jamaica” . Kingston Gleaner . Kingston, Jamaica. May 13, 1998. p. 11 . Retrieved 30 January 2016 – .
  42. Jump up^ “February is Black History Month” . Ontario, Canada: Service Employees International Union. February 2, 2015 . Retrieved 29 January 2016 .
  43. Jump up^ Marano 2010, p. 234.
  44. Jump up^ Marano 2010, p. 240.
  45. Jump up^ Marano 2010, p. 244.
  46. Jump up^ Marano 2010, pp. 246-247.
  47. Jump up^ Mathieu 2010, p. 160.
  48. Jump up^ Mathieu 2010, p. 158.
  49. Jump up^ Marano 2010, p. 248.
  50. Jump up^ Marano 2010, p. 253.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *