Abundant Life Black History Month 2023 Highlights: UVa Black Hidden Nurses
Feb 01, 2023|Written By: Faith Kelley
Abundant Life Ministries is celebrating Black History Month by taking time to reflect on historical and notable people who have contributed to our community, nation, and world. To kick off this month of noteworthy stories, are a group of nurses, now known as the UVa Hidden Nurses, who defied the odds of segregation and racial inequality in our very own city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia.
Creating history isn’t easy, especially in this skin, and we are thankful for all the modern-day Moses’ and trailblazers that led the way to a better tomorrow.
Prior to desegregation and during WW2 a shortage of nurses in the 1950s had arisen. At the time, the University of Virginia’s enrollment was only open to white students. To fill this gap, the then all-black Burley High School enacted a licensed practical nursing program in partnership with the University of Virginia under the deanship of Roy Carpenter Beazley, UVa Hospital Nursing Department Director. This program created a space for black students to receive training toward an LPN license during the course of the 18-month program. Once students were licensed as LPN’s they were given jobs in different departments throughout the University Hospital. This program established an avenue for many black students to have a career, something that was rare at the time, as most of the black population in the City of Charlottesville at that time were domestic workers.
Though they were licensed, state-recognized nurses, and were doing the same work as their white counterparts, the UVa Black Hidden Nurses still faced issues of opposition and unfair treatment and work environments all based on the color of their skin.
The program was sunsetted in 1966 when most Hospitals had moved nursing programs to Universities. It wasn’t until April 6th of 2019 that all graduating classes of the LPN program were invited back to the University of Virginia to be recognized for their contributions made to the nursing community, desegregation, and to racial equity. During the ceremony of recognition, the black nurses were granted their well-deserved University of Virginia Alumni status.
One of the graduates of the program from the class of 1965 went on to be a local Pastor, Activist, and an Abundant Life Ministries Supporter. Pastor Sarah Kelley quoted scripture and said, “There is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed. (Luke 8:17)”