Esther McCready

(1931 - 2020)

Esther McCready grew up in a family of four children; her mother was a housekeeper for priests at Saint Williams of York and her father was a laborer. She knew as a very young child that she wanted to be a nurse. Ms. McCready grew up in East Baltimore and attended Dunbar High School - one of only two high schools attended by African Americans at the time. She worked as a nurse's aid at Sinai Hospital for several years during high school.

Ms. McCready was raised in a world where segregation was commonplace, where discrimination was a fact of life, where bigotry was prevalent. Opportunities that her White counterparts could access were simply unavailable to her. At that time, the University of Maryland Nursing School did not admit "Negroes".

Although fully qualified to attend the University of Maryland School of Nursing, in order to pursue her desire to become a nurse, Ms. McCready was expected to attend a regional black nursing school at Tennessee's Meharry Medical College. Upon the initial denial of admission and with the help of the NAACP civil rights giants Charles Hamilton Houston, Donald Gaines Murray and Thurgood Marshall, she sued for admission to Maryland's school. On April 14, 1950, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Esther McCready. She finally won the right to attend the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Her case opened the way for African Americans not only at the University's School of Nursing, but also at the other professional schools, as well as the undergraduate school at College Park.

During her years at the UM School of Nursing, Ms. McCready faced students who were hostile to her, professors who ignored her, and supervisors who attempted to sabotage her work. Through it all, she maintained a quiet dignity and determination that could not be defeated.

Upon graduation in 1953, she passed her State Nursing Boards on her first attempt and began a career that included nursing, teaching, and public speaking. Ms. McCready worked for the Druid Health Center and was the Head Nurse at Morgan State University. She served in several health care institutions in New York, including Post-Operative Recovery at Cornell Medical Center and the Emergency Room at Harlem Hospital, and worked on campus at New York University.

Ms. McCready is one of the University of Maryland School of Nursing's most distinguished alumni. As the first African American to attend the UM School of Nursing she stands as a trailblazer; her courage and determination helped open doors for generations of aspiring African American nursing students.

Ms. McCready holds a master's degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music. She sang in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera's Production of Porgy and Bess. She traveled as a member of an ensemble of opera singers who toured with the Metropolitan Opera diva Grace Bumbry in the United States and Europe. 

Ms. McCready also taught general education curriculum in the New York Public School system for seventeen years, and was teacher to actress Raven Symone of the Cosby Show for two years. She continues to serve on the University of Maryland School of Nursing's Board of Visitors.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2004.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2004