As we near the end of Black History Month, we continue to feature local African Americans from Southwest Florida. Today, we'll hear from a Fort Myers woman who has dedicated her personal and professional life to helping others.
“My name is Minnie Jackson, and I’m a retired RN. Thirty-five and a half years at Lee (Health), and now, I work with Lee as a community consultant. I spend a lot of time helping people. That’s my passion; that’s my love. I try to help anybody that I can, especially when it comes to health.
When I came to Lee Memorial, the integration of the hospitals had taken place. When I got there, there was one African American nurse. She worked in pediatrics on the south side of the hospital, so you didn’t see her. I worked med-surg, so I was like the golden egg. Everybody knew me because from what the public could see, unless you were in pediatrics, I was the only African American RN at that time. There were African American employees, but I was the only registered nurse.
And, it was very challenging. I had some rejections. I had rejections of doctors making rounds with me. I had rejections of patients not wanting me to start their IV, but I was very professional with it. They would be very kind. They would say, 'Well, you don’t have to do it. You can get someone else.’ And, I said, ‘I wish I could, but I’m the only one that’s qualified to do it. So, may I have your hand?’ And, then, people were OK.
But, then, as time went on, people got adjusted to me. I had doctors too, who were very helpful for me, taught me a lot. So, you know, I can’t say that it was really bad I could say that it was new. It was an adjustment for me; it was an adjustment for them.
I am the oldest of the girls. It’s four boys, five girls. I have one deceased brother. We were considered the graveyard kids. The reason we were considered the graveyard kids is because, on that same street, there’s a graveyard, and the graveyard was our playground. So, you had to go to the graveyard to get the city water, and if it was your turn, if you missed daylight, you still had to go and get that water. We had sulfur water and city water, but the city water came from the graveyard. So, we were considered the graveyard kids.
By the time we graduated from high school, 18, around that time, we had in-house plumbing, but otherwise, you had the outhouse. My daddy, he built on to that house, and he put in the bathroom. And, as it came, more and more people had running water. It was amazing to take a bath in a bathtub versus a tin tub, and hope that you got in there first. You know, because you didn’t just throw out the water. You used the water again; you raced to get in there as fast as you could.
But see, at that time — back in the sixties — you didn’t know you were poor, because everyone was alike. And, on Wednesday — every Wednesday — when my dad got paid, we knew were getting cookies. So, we would sit there just waiting. We could see daddy coming down the road, and we knew. Some of the kids would be so jealous because they knew every Wednesday we got that treat from my dad.
I married my childhood sweetheart. We grew up together; we went to the same church, and in September, we will have been married 52 years. He is my best friend and my partner, and we enjoy each other. We have two children; we have four grandchildren and three great-grands.
I can tell you, to me, every day is black history because, every day, I am black. However, Black History Month is recognizing people who make great contribution, great accomplishments but are not really celebrated on a continuum. So, when I look at Black History Month, I look at that ‘Oh, this is the time that there’s a high focus on what black Americans brought to this country that there may not be in your history books.’ However, to Minnie Jackson, every day is black history.”