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At the 2019 Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP’s Annual Freedom Fund Banquet, the University of Virginia (UVA) honored its Hidden Nurses, the first African American women to help desegregate the UVA Hospital.
One of the nurses honored was Louella Jackson Walker, part of the Licensed Practical Nurse program class of 1958. The program was a partnership between UVA Hospital and Burley High School, an African American segregated school, to help fill a nursing shortage.
Walker tells cbs19news.com, “We took our jobs very seriously and they had a shortage of nurses and this was one way to fill that gap.”
Being an African American nurse at the time was not easy, but Walker says she learned to show kindness to her patients, no matter their behavior toward her. However, despite making history and helping to keep the hospital and its patients afloat, she was unappreciated. She reports that she is not sure where UVA would be today if she and other “hidden nurses” hadn’t served as some of the first African American nurses at the newly desegregated hospital.
Honoring these hidden nurses came about after Walker and another former classmate found old photos from the program at a yard sale. They gave the photos to the UVA School of Nursing, which decided it was time to make things right. Susan Kools, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the UVA School of Nursing, reports that the hidden nurses received a formal apology from the dean for being excluded from their community, and were inducted into the alumni association.
Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP President, Janette Boyd Martin, said she wanted to recognize the nurses because the black community needs to celebrate leaders like them. She helped recognize the nurses at the freedom fund banquet. Sixteen nurses from the LPN program were present at the banquet.
Martin says, “People need to know about them and what they’ve done. Especially for our children, so they can see role models.”
To learn more about the UVA hidden nurses who were recognized at the 2019 Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP’s Annual Freedom Fund Banquet, visit here.
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