University of Virginia School of Nursing
Some 25 UVA LPN graduates of the Burley High School and UVA Hospital program that ran from the 1950s through at least 1980 were honored before hundreds at an April 6 "Hidden Nurses" ceremony.

An icon of a nurse's cap to signify scholarship in nursing history. An April 6 "Hidden Nurses" ceremony was a powerful moment for us, and a chance to properly celebrate UVA nurses whose important stories have, heretofore, remained in the shadows.

Twenty-five nurse pioneers from the 1950s-'60s segregated Burley LPN program were recognized, and the names of more than 100 others - either deceased or whose whereabouts are, as yet, unknown - were read. Hundreds attended; many were moved; still more were inspired.

At the time, these nurses - many of whom are now in their 80s and 90s - were not allowed entry into UVA because of their race. Driven by a critical nursing shortage after World War II, nursing department director Roy Carpenter Beazley established a yearlong LPN program with Charlottesville’s black vocational high school, Jackson P. Burley High, the main school for black students until integration in 1967. After that, the LPN program continued at UVA Hospital at least until 1980, and possibly later.

These black nurses went on to help desegregate UVA Hospital, and their presence and experiences were the first steps toward integrating the nursing profession.

Our hope with the "Hidden Nurses" project - organized by Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry's director Barbra Mann Wall, associate dean Susan Kools, executive director of development Kelly McCaskill, development communications manager Jessica Eustace, and PhD in nursing student Tori Tucker - is to broaden how we tell nursing's story. Thanks to a Jefferson Trust grant, we're doing just that.

To these LPN graduates and their family members and loved ones: We salute you. We are proud of you. And we ask for your forgiveness for the wrongs committed against you.

“It’s an important moment in the history of the University of Virginia,” said UVA President Jim Ryan, and one in which “we are actively reckoning with the darker parts of our history and trying to atone for our past sins. I am committed to working each day to repair broken relationships and build trust. This will take time and daily effort, but I am committed.”


PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer Byrne