Women’s History Month SPOTLIGHT on Black Women Veterans: Brig. Gen. Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown

Meet Brigadier General Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown (October 10, 1927 – August 5, 2011). In 1979, she became the first African-American woman to achieve the rank of General in the United States Army, and she was the first African-American chief nurse of the Army Nurse Corps. She was a nurse and educator who served in the United States Army from 1955 to 1983.

Becoming Brig. Gen. Johnson-Brown:

Brig. Gen. Johnson-Brown was born in 1927 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She was one of seven children growing up on her father’s farm in Chester County, near the town of Malvern. When she was twelve, she was inspired to become a nurse by a white public health nurse in her local area, so she applied to the West Chester School of Nursing, only to be rejected because she was black. She later moved to New York City, where she then enrolled in the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing in 1947.

Early Career Years & Education:

  • 1955: Johnson-Brown enlisted in the Army after President Harry Truman banned segregation and discrimination in the armed services.
  • 1960: Johnson-Brown became a first lieutenant and joined the Army’s Nursing Corps
  • Served as a staff nurse in Japan and Chief nurse in Korea.
  • 1959: Earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Villanova University
  • 1963: Earned her master’s degree in nursing education from Columbia University
  • 1978: Earned her doctorate in education administration from Catholic University of America

Military Career:

  • Johnson-Brown served at military hospitals in Japan at the start of her career
  • Trained surgical nurses preparing to deploy to Southeast Asia during theVietnam War
  • 1970’s: Johnson-Brown served as director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing.
  • 1979 Johnson-Brown was promoted to brigadier general as head of the Army Nurse Corps
  • Becoming the Army’s first black woman general, and the first black woman to serve as the Army’s senior nurse


  • She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Inc.
  • 1983 Johnson-Brown retired from service and worked as the director of the American Nursing Association’s government affairs division.
  • 1986 she became a professor of nursing at George Mason University.


Brig. Gen. Johnson-Brown’s life story is very near and dear to my heart as not only was she a hard charging nurse that didn’t take “no” for an answer, but she was also a member of my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Inc. As a professional registered nurse, still building her military career, Brig. Gen. Johnson-Brown’s story gives me hope. Her lifelong commitment to education and a refusal to let discrimination stop her from living her life’s purpose, reminds me that what I do and what I stand for is not about me, but about those coming along well after I am gone. It’s about leaving a legacy, blazing a trail for the next little girl that looks like me to walk on.

  • Johnson-Brown went on to be with the Lord in Wilmington, Delaware on August 5, 2011 while en route to the hospital.
  • She was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Learn More:

To read more about the amazing Brig. Gen. Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown visit any of the following links:



Until next time… Write from the Heart

{Just Being} Candice Maria

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