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Susan King Taylor, the first African American Army Nurse

Susie King Taylor was an African American nurse on the front lines of the Civil War. When Gen. Rufus Saxton began military recruitment of African American men, Taylor joined the 33rd U.S. Colored Infantry as a laundry worker. Traveling with the regiment, she witnessed combat and stepped in to serve as a nurse on the battlefield.



Tens of thousands of women, both enslaved and free, traveled to the battlefront of the Civil War. Enslaved women journeyed Union lines to free themselves. Once there, they joined northern women who came south to provide much-needed assistance. Women worked for the Army as nurses; they built fortifications and established schools. They also secured food, housing, employment, and medical care for themselves and others. Many of the schools and hospitals established still exist today.

Photo: Susie King Taylor, black educator and army nurse, Aug. 6, 1848 – Oct. 6, 1912.

BY NADINE DAHER in the Smithsonian Magazine

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