Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The American Red Cross and Black History Month

February is Black History Month and the American Red Cross is celebrating the contributions of African Americans to the Red Cross mission and legacy. African Americans have proudly shared in the humanitarian work of the American Red Cross since its founding in 1881. From Frederick Douglass to Dr. Jerome H. Holland to everyday working volunteers and staff, African Americans were and continue to be supporters, contributors, and change makers in the Red Cross organization. 

Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, met Frederick Douglass shortly after the Civil War in 1865. Barton's assistance to African American soldiers during the war was well known, especially her assistance to the all-black Massachusetts 54th Regiment, which had been recruited by Frederick Douglass. The bravery of the soldiers of the 54th Regiment was well documented and formed the basis for the 1991 film "Glory."  Barton and Douglass forged a friendship that lasted many years. Douglass lent his support as one of the founding members of the American Red Cross. His name appears on the 1882 United States Ratification of the Geneva Convention, signed by President Chester A. Arthur.

The legacy of Jerome H. Holland, African American educator, businessman, author, civil rights proponent, diplomat and 1985 Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, lives on through his mission of helping to provide the safest blood possible to those in need. The American Red Cross Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences is named in his honor.

Holland was the driving force behind the current phase of biomedical research and development at the Red Cross; the national center for biomedical research and development. A true visionary, Holland recognized the importance of blood research and the benefits it could bring to human health. The Holland Lab continues his legacy today through the American Red Cross Research and Development Program.

African Americans continue to contribute significantly to the work of the Red Cross. Leaders such as Gwendolyn T. Jackson, Red Cross National Chairman of Volunteers, 1989-1991, helped pave the way for generations to come. African Americans continue to work and volunteer in leadership positions at the American Red Cross.

Read more at:  American Red Cross History