It is a little known fact that in the days when schools, parks, libraries and other facilities could legally ban African Americans, many hospitals in the south also denied services to African Americans even in life threatening situations.
Some hospitals, like Davis Hospital in Statesville, NC, allowed African Americans to have operations but they could not stay overnight in the hospital to recover from their surgeries. Instead, from about 1925-1940, they were discharged to the home of Nurse Daisy Connor Robinson (Reese, 2014) for care. The 1930 Statesville City Directory lists her home address, 249 Garfield Street as the “Colored Branch – Davis Hospital”.
Nurse Robinson was born on December 4, 1892 in Catawba County. In the 1920 census she is listed as a trained nurse. To date, no evidence exists about here she received her nurses training. Good Samaritan Hospital in Charlotte had the largest nursing school for African Americans at that time, but St, Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, Lincoln Hospital in Durham, Jubilee Hospital in Henderson and Slater Hospital in Winston-Salem were other North Carolina African American hospitals with nursing schools operating before 1920. The 1930 US census shows Nurse Robinson living on Garfield Street and having three ‘roomers”, most likely hospital patients recovering from illness or surgery. On April 8, 1932 the Statesville Landmark newspaper lists Daisy Robinson as receiving $25 for services rendered, presumably nursing care for indigent patients. Statesville City Directories from the 1930s and 1940s list the address of the “Colored Branch” of Davis Hospital as 249 Garfield St. Nurse Conner-Robinson died of tuberculosis, mostly likely contracted from a patient and died in January, 1947 at age 54. Robinson’s obituary in the January 9th, 1947 Landmark, confirms she was in charge of the African American ward at Davis Hospital for a number of years (“Funeral Thursday,”, 1947, p.16). She was buried in the African American cemetery in Statesville and today, no headstone marks her resting place.
Nurse Conner-Robinson was a pioneer nurse. Few African American women were highly educated professionals. She served her community in very trying times when laws and policies about race were suffocating for African Americans in every aspect of life. She deserves a fuller history and recognition for her years of service to the Statesville Community.