Jessie Parker Smith Oral History: Highlights from the Duke Medical Center Archives’ Oral History Collection

Mrs. Jessie Parker Smith, LPN, was a member of the first graduating classes of the Durham School of Practical Nursing during the late 1940s, as well as one of the cohorts of what is now known as the "Trailblazers", the first African American nurses hired by Duke. Smith remained a nurse at Duke for over 40 years. Initially a surgical nurse, she came to work with a variety of patients and specialties over her career. Tireless in her advocacy for the profession, Smith was an active member and Treasurer of the North Carolina Licensed Practical Nurses Association.

In April of 2022, Smith donated the North Carolina Licensed Practical Nurses Association (NCLPNA) Records to the Duke University Medical Center Archives. The NCLPNA was a predominately African American nursing group, and these records document this professional group’s activities. The collection is comprised of administrative records that cover all aspects of the professional society from continuing education, membership, their annual conference, publications, and much more. Jessie Parker Smith

In addition to donating this trove of records, Smith was interviewed by Patara Williams on June 13, 2022. In this oral history, Smith discusses the Duke and Durham hospital systems, the work and culture of Licensed Practical Nursing throughout her career, and her perspectives on patient care. The themes of this interview include nursing, racial integration in healthcare, and professional development.

Check back for an announcement once the North Carolina Licensed Practical Nurses Association (NCLPNA) Records are processed and opened to researchers!

Additional Information

This blog post was contributed by Medical Center Archives Assistant Director Lucy Waldrop.