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Black Heritage Travel in the Outer Banks
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Asheville’s Appalachian Food Culture
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Celebrating Asheville’s Appalachian Folklife and Unique Culture
Black Heritage Travel in the Outer Banks
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Black Health Heritage: Gullah Geechee Nurses and Their Legacy of Care

Black Health Heritage:  Gullah Geechee Nurses and Their Legacy of Care

The Gullah-Geechee Corridor has provided the world with a good number of Black nurses. Those nurses range from Susie King, the first Black Army nurse during the Civil War to women like Katie Hall Underwood who served the island of Sapelo as a nurse-midwife, delivering many of the island’s children over a 40-year period. And there were others, featured below, who answered the call to become nurses and treat communities in the Corridor, especially those places that barred Blacks from receiving medical care in white hospitals. The history of Gullah Geechee nurses is a long one and a meritorious one that includes helping women (and some men) create careers in medicine that were rewarding and prosperous.  

KATIE HALL UNDERWOOD, Nurse-Midwife, Sapelo Island (1884-1977)

Katie Hall Underwood was the daughter of formerly enslaved parents who were a founding family of the Raccoon Bluff Community on Sapelo Island in Georgia. She began treating patients and delivering babies in the 1920s and delivered her last baby in 1968. “Underwood always carried a black bag filled with everything she needed, medicines and natural remedies, and her little book, in which she recorded the names of each baby she delivered.” She even tended to the aftercare of new mothers and their babies. (Source: GA Women of Achievement)

CANNON STREET HOSPITAL & TRAINING SCHOOL FOR NURSES, Charleston SC

Dr. Alonzo Clifton McClennan and a small group of Black doctors, pharmacists and dentists established the Cannon Street Hospital & Training School for Nurses in Charleston to meet the demand of patient care in segregated Charleston.Hampton educated Anna DeCosta Banks served as head nurse and superintendent of nurses at the hospital for over thirty years as well as served the community as a visiting nurse for various organizations.  renamed the McClennan-Banks Memorial Hospital, in honor of Dr. Alonzo Clifton McClennan, the founding director, and Anna D. Banks in 1959, the school trained Black nurses who lived in and supported the Black community as medical professionals for many years. [Source: Waring Historical Library, MUSC, Charleston]

ALICE WOODBY MCKANE, McKane Training School for Nurses, Southeast Georgia (Savannah)

Alice Woodby McKane was the first Black woman to practice medicine in the state of Georgia. Originally from the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania, Dr. McKane along with her husband established the McKane Training School for Nurses, which evolved into the Charity Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Savannah. The two-year program provided educational basics as well as classes in anatomy, physiology, hygiene, midwifery, therapeutic, and chemistry to prepare students to be nurses. 

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SALOME TAYLOR, COMMUNITY HOSPITAL & NURSING SCHOOL, WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

In Wilmington, NC the Community Hospital was opened in 1921, by a group of medical professionals led by Dr. Foster F. Burnett. Not only could they not practice at white hospitals, patient intake was relegated to whites only. A School of Nursing was opened in 1927. Before the school was established, Salome Taylor joined the staff in 1922 as the superintendent of nurses. In 1926, she became the superintendent of the hospital though she would return to her old position and hold it until retirement. During the years that the Community Hospital Nursing School was open, over 250 nurses graduated from the program. 

Robin Caldwell

Robin Caldwell is the blogger behind freshandfriedhard.com and academic researcher focusing on Black history, heritage and culture. Public historian primarily in Black American historical foodways: antebellum and regional.

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Robin Caldwell

Robin Caldwell is the blogger behind freshandfriedhard.com and academic researcher focusing on Black history, heritage and culture. Public historian primarily in Black American historical foodways: antebellum and regional.

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