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  ARC Heartland Chapter
2912 South 80th Avenue
Omaha, NE 68124
(402) 343-7700


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African Americans in the American Red Cross

A Tradition of Service

On behalf of the American Red Cross, Black Americans continue to build on the proud traditions of service to the community that were established by the eight pioneering paid and volunteer African American leaders honored below.


  A renowned artist, Henery Tanner began his service with the organization in Paris during 1917 and served in the First World War as a Lieutenant in the Farm Service Bureau. After a lengthy illness he returned to the Red Cross and was stationed at Neufchateau. In October of 1918 he left the Farm Service Bureau and applied to the Red Cross to sketch scenes in the war zone. In that same month he was assigned as publicity director for the organization. In October 1919 his paintings of the interior and exterior of Red Cross canteens were sent to national headquarters where they are still proudly displayed.


In 1943 he was the first black hired in a professional position at national headquarters. His title was Assistant to the Vice Chairman, Domestic Services. In this role, he was responsible for networking with black organizations, informing the black population of the services of the Red Cross, and bridging the gap between the black community at large and the Red Cross.


Best known as the founder of Bethune-Cookman College and the National Council of Negro Women, Ms. Bethune was an active Red Cross volunteer from the 1920s through the 1940s and was a true supporter of the organization.


Born in 1901 in southeast Washington, D.C., Dr. Patterson was the founder of the United Negro College Fund and the third president of Tuskegee Institute. He was the first black member of the Central Committee, Chairman of the Tuskeegee Red Cross Chapter, a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors from 1946 to 1947, and a member at large from 1957 to 1960.


One of the nation's foremost physicians and a pioneer in blood collections and plasma processing, Dr. Drew was a member of the Red Cross paid staff. He became involved with the Red Cross in 1940 when he became the medical supervisor of the Blood Transfusion Betterment Association project in New York.


Ms. Davis was the first black nurse officially enrolled and pinned by the American National Red Cross. She served with the Town and Country Nursing Service in Tennessee in 1917 and served with the Public Health sector of the Red Cross in 1918.


Dr. Holland became a member of the Board of Governors of the Red Cross in 1964 and served until 1970. He served as Vice Chairman of the Board from 1978 until his appointment as the first black National Chairman of the American Red Cross in 1979. He held that position until his death in January of 1985.


The first black appointed to the League of Red Cross Societies in Geneva, Switzerland, he began his Red Cross service during the Second World war as a club director in the Southwest Pacific in 1946. He returned to the organization in 1953 as a public relations consultant. In 1966, Mr. Dabney joined the League of Red Cross Societies staff in Geneva as administrator of the League's global development program.

We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Victoria E. Reese, National Capital Chapter, in the research and preparation of this material. The material has been previously published by the American National Red Cross in poster and pamphlet form.

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