Esther McCready, a native of Baltimore MD, had wanted to be a nurse since she was a child. In high school, she worked as a nurse’s aid, and applied to the University of Maryland School of Nursing in 1946. Her application was denied because she was a “negro”.
Per the ruling McCready vs Byrd, she “met the university’s admission academic performance qualifications, but the University of Maryland did not accept ‘negro” students. Instead, the University of Maryland offered Ms. McCready a full scholarship—to attend an all-black nursing school in Tennessee. This 1896 Plessy-Ferguson “separate but equal” approach wasn’t acceptable to Ms. McCready. She wanted to attend nursing school in her home town of Baltimore.
1950, Esther McCready, with the assistance of Thurgood Marshall and other attorneys from the NAACP, successfully won the right for her and other black students to attend nursing school at the University of Maryland through the Maryland Court of Appeals. “The state must provide (an education) for her in conformity with the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” read McCready vs. Byrd. This victory was one of several cases which lead to the landmark Brown vs Board of Education and found that racial segregation in schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
Nursing school isn’t easy, but Esther McCready was subject to disrespect and unequal treatment due to her race. The Maryland State Archives state that she was ignored by professors and had to commute from home every day because she was told that “the dorms were full” and had no place for her. Despite these hardships, Esther graduated from the University of Maryland School of Nursing and passed the nursing boards in 1953. Ms. McCready went on to have a successful nursing career, earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in music and taught in the NY Public School system for 17 years.
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