Red Cross Pays Tribute to Black History Month

WESTERN MASS – Since their founding over 100 years ago, the American Red Cross has always been an advocate for the sheltering, feeding and aiding people of all races and creeds in need throughout the United States.
This year, however, the Red Cross, one of the country’s oldest and most highly decorated volunteer organizations has placed great importance on recognizing the contributions of African-Americans to the Red Cross.
Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, a nurse from North Oxford, Mass., the formation of the American Red Cross was influenced heavily by Barton’s friendship with legendary black leader Frederick Douglass, whom she met in 1865 and who recruited many of the soldiers for Massachusetts’ 54th regiment in the American Civil War, an all-black unit for whom Barton assisted as a nurse. The story of the 54th Regiment served as the plot for the 1989 Edward Zwick film “Glory” which starred Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington.
After the war, Barton founded the organization with the help of the likes of Douglass, and over the years, other black figures such as Dr. Jerome Holland would help to mold and shape the organization into the formidable force of good seen today. Holland served as Chairman of the organization’s board of governors for five years from 1980 to 1985.
In addition to his chairmanship, Holland’s career-long pursuit of the cleanest blood for the organization’s growing blood donor program led to his being honored posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985 from President Ronald Reagan. The Red Cross’ national blood laboratory is also named in Holland’s honor.
“African-Americans have always been strong contributors to the Red Cross, donating lots of blood, money and time over the years to the organization,” said Dawn Leaks, The Red Cross’ Regional Director of Communications for Central and Western Massachusetts, “we would not be able to do what we do (in Central and Western Mass.) without the help and efforts of African-Americans.”

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