All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina’s black history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit from our state's African American's past.
Sarah Hunter, wife of the fourth principal of St. Augustine’s College, saw the need for a hospital for Raleigh’s African American community and realized that the opportunity was there to provide training for black medical professionals. St. Agnes Hospital was the fruit of her labor, and opened October 18, 1896. The nursing school, offering the first professional training for black nurses in North Carolina, graduated its first students two years later. Much of the training was on-the-job, but there were also some lectures. A larger, more modern hospital was completed in 1909. It was built by St. Augustine’s masonry students from stone quarried on campus. The shell of that building is part of the St. Augustine's College Campus Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
The African American community in Raleigh depended on the hospital for healthcare. St. Agnes is said to have charged just enough for its services to let the patients keep their dignity but not so much as to keep them from seeking help. In 1937 St. Agnes Training School was accredited by the American Medical Association. The hospital closed in the wake of the civil rights movement in 1961, and it is estimated that nearly 700 nursing students were trained there during its existence. See some great photos of nurses at St. Agnes in this Flickr set from the State Archives.