Hidden Nurses recognized at NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The University of Virginia's Hidden Nurses were recognized Friday night during the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP's annual Freedom Fund Banquet.

These nurses were the first African-American women to help desegregate the UVA Hospital.

Louella Jackson Walker was part of the Licensed Practical Nurse’s program class of 1958. The program was a partnership between Burley High School, an African-American segregated school, and UVA Hospital in order to fill a need.

"We took our jobs very seriously and they had a shortage of nurses and this was one way to fill that gap," said Walker.

She said being one of the only African-Americans in the hospital at the time was not easy.

"Some people wanted you to take care of them and some didn't,” said Walker.

She said she learned to always show kindness toward her patients no matter what, but Walker said despite making history and being a huge help to the hospital, they were unappreciated at the time.

"It was just like we did not exist during that time,” said Walker. “But if it had not been for this program, I'm not sure where UVA would be today."

Walker and a former classmate, Mary Jones, found old photos from the program at a yard sale of a former teacher they had who had passed away fall of 2018. They gave the photos to the UVA School of Nursing.

Susan Kools, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the UVA School of Nursing, said the school decided to make things right in the spring of 2019.

"They received a formal apology from our dean for being excluded from our community,” said Kools. “And also were inducted into our alumni association because we consider them our alumni."

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 recognized the nurses at the freedom fund banquet.

"People need to know about them and what they've done,” said Martin. “Especially for our children, so they can see role models."

Walker said it is nice to finally be recognized.

"It's a joy,” said Walker. “It’s better to be recognized late than not at all.”

Sixteen nurses from the LPN program were at the banquet Friday night.

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