Contributions of People of Color

A Legacy of Strong Leadership and Support

The American Red Cross enjoys a long tradition of humanitarian service. The names and contributions of Clara Barton, Mabel Boardman, Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, and Jane Delano are prominent in our history. Less well-known are the contributions of people of color. Individuals of African American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American descent lead our organization as past and present members of our Board of Governors, and are creating legacies as employees, volunteers and donors.

Frederick Douglass, a leading spokesman of African Americans in the 1800s, was a friend of Clara Barton. Mr. Douglass offered encouragement when Clara Barton sought advice and support in her efforts to gain U.S. acceptance as a member nation of the global Red Cross network.

There was a Red Cross presence in Puerto Rico long before the American Red Cross first chartered it in 1917. The Spanish Red Cross founded the Red Cross in Puerto Rico on July 7,1893 when Puerto Rico was still under the dominance of that government. Manuel Fernandez Juncos, a member of the Spanish government and a Spanish Red Cross delegate to Puerto Rico, was tasked with founding "Las Comisiones de la Cruz Roja Espanola" (Spanish Red Cross branches) throughout Puerto Rico. The Spanish Red Cross "Comisiones" (branches) in Puerto Rico remained active until 1898 when the American Red Cross started to make a presence on the island through its Nursing corps.

Ruth Hills Wadsworth, a Mescalero Apache Nurse, was the first American Indian to serve as a Red Cross nurse overseas, during World War I.

Frances Reed Elliot Davis, was the first African American nurse to be accepted in the American Red Cross Nursing Service, in 1918.

Lula Owl Gloyne, a Cherokee graduate nurse, was a Red Cross nurse during World War I. After the war, she taught Home Nursing and First Aid on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and founder of Bethune Cookman College, was instrumental in establishing a relationship between the American Red Cross and the African American community in the early 1900s.

Dr. Charles Drew, an African American physician, started the American Red Cross blood banking. The Charles Drew Institute in Biomedical Services is named for Dr. Drew.

Dr. Jerome Holland, an African American educator, former U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, and former President of Delaware State College and Hampton Institute (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) was appointed Chairman of the Board of Governors in 1979 and reappointed in 1982. The world renowned Holland Research Laboratory is named for Dr. Holland.

Gwen Jackson, an African American human resource professional and Red Cross volunteer was appointed National Chair of Volunteers in 1988.

In October 1992, the President's Agenda for Cultural Diversity focused on career development and advancement, diversity recruitment, community outreach and recognition of best practices in individuals and Red Cross units. The 12 point agenda included the Presidential Scholars Program, the Mini-Challenge Grant Program, the Presidential Intern Program, the President's Fund for Cultural Diversity Ambassadors Program, the Ten-By-Ten President's Award, the Staff Exchange Program, the Executive Forum Program, the Joint Projects and Promotions Program, Senior Management Accountability, the President's Circle Program, the Executive Apprenticeship Program and the Glass Ceiling Award.

The Diversity Division of Human Resources was created in July 1994 to support organizational activity in the rapidly expanding area of diversity, and supports the strategic goals of the department through the design and implementation of effective diversity change processes and resources.

In May 1998, we created the Corporate Diversity Department and Chief Diversity Officer position. The Chief Diversity Officer position reports directly to the President and CEO of the American Red Cross.

Steve Bullock, African American and former CEO of the Greater Cleveland Chapter, served as Acting President of the American Red Cross in 1999.

Join our Global Network

Each day, the supporters, volunteers and professional staff of the American Red Cross work to relieve suffering in local communities here at home and around the world. There is a lot to accomplish but many hands make light work. We welcome your help and urge you to join the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross.