Hazel Johnson-Brown: Trailblazing Nurse

hazel-johnson-brownHazel Johnson-Brown was a nurse and educator, who served with the U.S. Army from 1955-1983. She became the first black female general in the United States Army and the first black chief of the Army Nurse Corps in 1979.  She was later promoted to brigadier general, that same year.

Brown was born in Pennsylvania, to a large family. Her interest in nursing developed young.  She applied to the West Chester School of Nursing, but was denied entry because she was African-American. Determined to pursue the field of nursing, she moved to New York City, and enrolled in the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing in 1947. She graduated and worked at Harlem Hospital for three years.

Brown then moved back to Pennsylvania and worked at the medical cardiovascular ward at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital and became head nurse within three months. She worked, while completing her B.A. in nursing at Villanova University. While working at the VA, she became interested in the opportunities, and travel of working as a nurse in the Army.

hazel_johnson_brown_webBrown joined the army in 1955, right after President Harry Truman banned segregation and discrimination in the armed services. She was a staff nurse in Japan and Chief nurse in Korea. While in the Army, Gen. Johnson-Brown earned a master’s degree in nursing education from Columbia University in 1963. She also gained a doctorate in education administration from Catholic University of America in 1973, for Brown taught many incoming nurses into the army on procedures, and taught at Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing.

Brown receiving her doctorate.

Brown receiving her doctorate.

She later became dean and assistant at Walter Reed as well. From 1976-1978, Brown was Assistant Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing. In 1979 she became the first black female general in the United States Army and the first black chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Brown retired from the Army Nurse Corps in 1983. However, she remained enormously active on nursing’s national stage as a mentor, teacher and advocate.


Brown receiving her promotion to general.

Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown, was a true trailblazer. She has helped usher in nursing opportunities for black women in the Armed forces with her accomplishments and hard work. Her tenacity never wavered for she was a chameleon, and blended into different facets of nursing. She never lost her desire to expand educationally and occupationally.  Discrimination did not stop her, She found ways to flourish and become better. Family, we must never lose our drive. We must be persistent in following our dreams. Nothing can stop you. We must let the power of our passion propel us into becoming skilled in our field. We are all great, and we can all become greater. The question is are you willing to do what needs to be done to achieve the greatness that is destined for you? ~Know Your Worth~ -M. Millie



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