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Jesse Sleet Scales:  1st African American Public Health Nurse

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Jessie Sleet Scales (1865-1956)


Jesse Sleet Scales (1865-1956) was a native of Canada.  She was born in Stratford, Ontario.  Scales graduated from Provident Hospital School of Nursing in Chicago in 1895. Upon graduation, she moved to New York hoping to work in the field of public health.  She was denied employment because of her race even though there was a shortage of professionally trained nurses.  Scales finally found nursing employment in 1900 with the Charity Organization Society.  Continue reading “Jesse Sleet Scales:  1st African American Public Health Nurse”

Hazel Johnson-Brown: 1st African American Woman Brigadier General

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Hazel Johnson-Brown
Hazel Johnson-Brown

Born in 1927, Hazel Johnson-Brown was the first African-American woman to be a Brigadier General in the United States Military in 1979. She joined the army in 1955 shortly after President Truman banned segregation in the armed services.

Hazel Johnson-Brown was one of 7 children. She was raised on her father’s farm in West Chester, PA. Inspired by a public health nurse at the age of 12, she decided that she too wanted to become a nurse one day. Her application to the West Chester School of Nursing in Pennsylvania was rejected because she was black. Undeterred, she moved to New York in 1947 and enrolled in Harlem Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated and took a job at Philadelphia Veteran’s Hospital in 1953. It was there that her co-workers encouraged her to join the Army. She initially enlisted for what she thought would be a two year tour. She excelled and quickly began to rise through the ranks.

Hazel Johnson-Brown - Receiving Rank of Brigadier General
Hazel Johnson-Brown – Receiving Rank of Brigadier General

She continued her education while in the army, eventually earning a masters degree in nursing education from Columbia University and a Ph.D in education administration from Catholic University. She retired from military service in 1983 and then pursued a second career in academia teaching at George Mason University and Georgetown University. She retired from academia in 1997. She currently lives in Washington D.C. area.

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