Timeline

1915

September 29th, 1915

Alabama Bars White Nurses From Treating Black Patients

The Jim Crow racial segregation laws enacted and enforced in the American South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries enforced the strict boundaries of a legalized racial caste system and worked to restore and maintain white supremacy in the region. Even after the Civil War and Reconstruction amendments had ended slavery and declared black people to be citizens with civil rights and the power to vote, many Southern state and local lawmakers passed laws forbidding blacks and whites from playing checkers or pool together, entering a circus through the same entrance, or being buried in the same cemetery.

In some instances, these laws interfered with the provision of very important services, including education and health care. On September 29, 1915, the Alabama legislature passed a law forbidding any “white female nurse” from treating a black male patient in any public or private medical facility. Punishment for violation of the law included a fine of $10-$200 and up to six months incarceration or hard labor. An outgrowth of the long-held Southern fear that white women were at risk of attack and assault whenever in the presence of black men, similar action was taken in Georgia in 1911.