Black History

NUHW Honors Black Change Makers

Our movement is rooted in the ongoing shared struggle for equal rights and full equality. And, our work will never be complete until we create an anti-racist healthcare system that fully supports caregivers and patients of color and provides all patients with culturally-responsive care.

NUHW would not exist without the hard work and sacrifices of Black and Brown members and the inspiration that we all draw from the civil rights leaders of the past and present. We honor the lives and the legacies of those who came before us and stand out among us, and we welcome you to support and get to know their work.

Dr. Charles Drew Known as the “father of the blood bank,” Dr. Charles R. Drew was a scientist who pioneered modern standards for collecting, processing, and storing blood, helping to save millions of lives.
Coretta Scott King A musical prodigy, Coretta Scott King was the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and became the guardian of his legacy after his assassination. She led efforts to build MLK Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, and advocated for the U.S. to create a holiday in honor of her husband.
Medgar Evers Civil rights activist Medgar Evers was a Civil Rights leader in Mississippi who fought to overturn segregation until his assassination in 1963.
Reverend Cecil Williams A leader in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Reverend Cecil Williams was known for his inclusive approach and acceptance of all people.
Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela in 1918 in South Africa’s eastern cape. A prominent civil rights leader an anti-apartheid activist, Mandela’s work focused on moving South Africa toward democracy and beyond its apartheid state. 
Marsha P. Johnson Marsha P. Johnson was a beloved leader in the gay liberation movement for three decades. Through sheer determination and survival, she was at the forefront of driving change in an era where violence against the LGBTQIA community was at an all-time high. 
Lucy Parsons Born in 1853, Lucy Parsons grew up in Civil War Era Texas at a time when racist, prohibitive laws prevented the Black community from experiencing true freedom or safety. The details of her early life are largely unknown.
Derrick Palmer & Christian Smalls Christian Smalls and Derrick Palmer led a worker revolution at Amazon and ignited a nationwide wave of new organizing despite Amazon’s $4 million investment in union-busting tactics and attempts to stall their progress. 
James Baldwin Known for his direct yet poetic approach to debate, James Baldwin became a prominent voice in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. His work is still heralded as some of the most forward-thinking of its time. 
Kimberlé Crenshaw Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work has been fundamental in shaping critical race theory and “intersectionality,” a term that describes simultaneous racial and gender prejudice and that became mainstream 30 years after she first coined it.
Ijeoma Oluo Born into a bi-racial family, Ijeoma Oluo’s insightful writings about race, feminism, inequality, including her New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race, have made her a leading voice in today’s social justice debate. 
Brittany Packnett-Cunningham Brittany Packnett-Cunningham is a an award-winning leader whose activism bridges the intersections of culture and justice. Her work to elevate social change and empowerment has made her a crucial voice in the present civil rights movement.
Tarana Burke Tarana Burke is a New York-based activist, community organizer, and founder of the Me Too movement, an international campaign against sexual violence and sexual harassment.
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle Rachel Elizabeth Cargle is a writer, academic, activist, and philanthropist whose work focuses on exploring the intersection of race and womanhood and providing tools to empower women and their allies.
Ayo Tometi Ayo Tometi is one of the three co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement that intensified focus on the civil rights of  the Black community in the United States. For 20 years, Tometi has been a constant voice in the global conversations on issues of race, immigration, and gender justice.
Laverne Cox Laverne Cox is an American actress, producer, LGBTQ activist, and public speaker, and trailblazer for transgender rights.
Phill Wilson Phill Wilson is an internationally-renowned Black AIDS/HIV activist and founder of the nation’s only HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people.
Ibram X. Kendi Dr. Ibram X. Kendi founded the Antiracist Research and Policy Center and is an acclaimed anti-racism scholar, writer, activist, and historian of race and discriminatory policy in the United States.
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune The civil rights work of Mary Jane McLeod Bethune helped change history. She was a passionate educator and advocate who not only led voter registration drives after women fought for and won the right to vote, she also founded Bethune-Cookman college in 1923, working to provide equal access to education. 
Addie Wyatt Reverend Addie Wyatt was a labor leader, women’s rights advocate and civil rights activist who became the first Black woman elected international vice president of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union and in 1975 was named “Woman of the Year” by Time magazine.  
Patrisse Cullors When Patrisse Cullors helped begin #BlackLivesMatter as a hashtag in 2013, it sparked a national movement that would last for years to come. 
Shirley Ware From her early days as a vocational nurse, to the moment she became the first Black organizer at Local 250 in 1971, to her 1988 election as secretary treasurer at the nation’s second largest healthcare union — Shirley Ware knew how to organize. 
Lucy González Parsons Lucy Eldine González Parsons was a fiery speaker, writer, and labor organizer who led the first May Day parade in Chicago in 1886, and also unionized the city’s only female workers organization at the time, Working Women’s Union No. 1 (WWU).
Edgar Daniel Nixon Edgar Nixon founded the Sleeping Car Porters union and organized the Alabama Voters League before joining with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. to initiate the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 to protest segregation in the South.
Isaac Myers Isaac Myers was a pioneering Black labor leader who rose from a caulker, sealing seams on vessels in the Maryland shipyard, to organizing the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society and eventually became the president of the (Colored) National Labor Union, the first organization of its type in U.S. history.
Fannie Lou Hamer “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” said Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil and voting rights icon whose early life necessitated her activism as a form of survival.
Cat Brooks Cat Brooks’ activism against police violence has sparked the work of her Anti Police-Terror Project and the Justice Teams Network and has greatly advanced the conversation around police accountability.
Cori Bush Cori Bush is a lifelong activist and change agent. Most recently, in 2020, she became Missouri’s first Black congresswoman, advocating for progressive causes on an anti-violence platform.
Rosa Parks Rosa Parks was a Black civil rights activist whose act of civil disobedience helped launch the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Stacey Abrams Stacey Abrams, former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, is a voting rights activist whose efforts focus on ending voter suppression.
A. Philip Randolph Labor leader Asa Philip Randolph founded the nation’s first black labor union and helped pave the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Eloise Reese-Burns Eloise Reese-Burns tirelessly fought for justice as one of the longest-tenured health care workers in California and a member of NUHW’s executive board.
Mari Copeny aka “Little Miss Flint” Mari Copeny was just eight years old when she saw the impacts of Flint’s water crisis on her community, so she rallied a visit from President Obama.
Dr. Cornel West Dr. Cornel West is an American philosopher, intellectual, author, professor and activist who is widely credited with elevating conversations on race into the public discourse.
Bayard Rustin Bayard Rustin was an American civil rights leader, gay rights activist, and humanitarian who helped organize the 1961 Freedom Rides, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and more.