A 1918 photograph of members of the Toussaint L’Ouverture chapter of the American Red Cross, Savannah, Georgia.
The Toussaint L’Ouverture chapter of the American Red Cross was based in Savannah, Georgia and Chatham County. The photograph shows members of this chapter, nurse trainees, and their instructor. Many of the women pictured are African American. The chapter is named Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution.
African American nurses have a long record of wartime and civilian service, including service during the Civil War and Spanish American War. However, people of color continuously encountered discrimination as nurses in both military and civilian organizations. In 1917, when the US entered World War I, the need for nurses was staggering, but the American Red Cross initially refused entry to one thousand African American nurses using the excuse of a lack of segregated housing. Eventually, the War Department consented to authorize African American nurses into the Army Nurse Corps and over 1,800 African American nurses were certified by the American Red Cross to serve during World War I, though fewer ended up serving.