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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.

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.

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass

A leading spokesman of African Americans in the 1800s and 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.

Ruth Hills Wadsworth
Ruth Hills Wadsworth*

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

*no picture available

Frances Reed Elliot Davis
Frances Reed Elliot Davis

The first African American nurse to receive a Red Cross nursing pin with the “A” designation. Her number was 1A.

Lula Owl Gloyne
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
Mary McLeod Bethune

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

dr. charles drew
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
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
Gwen Jackson

An African American human resource professional and Red Cross volunteer was appointed National Chair of Volunteers in 1988.

steve bullock
Steve Bullock

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

Our Commitment to Diversity

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.


Proud of Our History But Focused on the Future

Today, the Red Cross is preparing to meet the next crisis head on. Now that you’ve learned about our history, please consider joining our efforts.

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