Major Della Hayden Raney Jackson
First African American Chief Nurse in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps
Della Hayden Raney Jackson was born in Suffolk, Virginia on January 10 as the 4th of 12 children. She attended Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing in Durham, North Carolina graduating in 1937. Lincoln was one of the earliest Black nurse training programs to provide educational and employment opportunities for Black nurses and physicians. Subsequently, Raney initially worked as an operating room supervisor at Lincoln Hospital and for a short period at the Community Hospital of Norfolk, Virginia.
At the beginning of World War II in 1940, Raney volunteered to join the Army Nurse Corps, but her application was denied being that she was a Black woman, and the ANC would not accept Black nurses until 1941. However, Raney remained persistent and sought endorsement from the American Red Cross which was needed to be considered for the ANC. Raney sent over a letter to Mary Beard, the American Red Cross nursing director, advocating for acceptance in the Red Cross given the difficulty for Black graduates to serve in the ANC. Most importantly, Raney shared her desire to serve her country and profession. Beard responded with Raney’s membership card, certificate, and pink making her the first African American nurse to be accepted in the Army Nurse Corps.
Raney served 6 months in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was then promoted to First Lieutenant as the Chief Nurse in 1942. As First Lieutenant, Raney led a group of African American nurses assigned to the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, home of the Tuskeegee Airmen . In her role, Raney gained the nickname “Maw” Raney. In 1944, Lt. Raney was promoted to Captain as chief nurse in Fort Huachuca, Arizona and eventually promoted to Major in 1946.
Major Raney retired in 1978 after serving on various bases including Camp Beale in California and a tour in Japan. She served in the ANC primarily between 1941- 1950. She was recognized with numerous medals and award for service and commitment and military experience: American Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Women’s Army Corps Service Medal and WWII Victory Medal. The National Black Nurses Association and Tuskegee Airmen Foundation created a scholarship to support aspiring nurses.
To learn more about inclusion in nursing and be part of the national discussion to address racism in nursing, check out and share the following resources:
Know Your History
- Nursing CLIO to engage with historians and scholars committed to deep work around historical accuracy in healthcare and nursing.
- American Association for the History of Nursing to attend monthly webinars on topics of nursing history, view the calendar here.
- NurseManifest to attend live zoom sessions with fellow nurses on nursing’s overdue reckoning on racism or to sign their pledge.
- Breaking Bias in Healthcare, an online course created by scientist Anu Gupta, to learn how bias is related to our brain’s neurobiology and can be mitigated with mindfulness.
- Revolutionary Love Learning Hub provides free tools for learners and educators to use love as fuel towards ourselves, our opponents, and to others so that we can embody a world where we see no strangers.
Support & Advocate
- National Black Nurses Association
- National Coalition for Ethnic Minority Nurse Association to stay engaged with topics relevant to nurses of color.
Help us paint the internet with nursing’s diverse origin stories. Follow this Medium publication, NursesYouShouldKnow on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook, or @KnowNurses on Twitter to share and re-post our articles far and wide.