February 17, 2010
The American Red Cross Missouri-Illinois Blood Services Region is proud to join the rest of the nation in celebrating February as Black History Month.
Black History and the American Red Cross
Some of the African-Americans who are crucial to American Red Cross history include:
- Frederick Douglass, who helped Clara Barton found the American Red Cross in 1882;
- Dr. Charles Drew, who, in the early 1940s, helped establish the foundation of what would later become the American Red Cross Blood Program; and
- Dr. Jerome H. Holland, chair of the Red Cross Board of Governors in the early 1980s, who was such a strong proponent of the Red Cross’s involvement in biomedical research, which is now a $20 million a year research and development program.
The importance of blood donation by African Americans
Increasing blood donations from minority groups, especially African-Americans, is crucial because some rare blood types are often found in minority populations.
In the United States, the National Institutes of Health estimates that sickle cell anemia affects 70,000 to 100,000 people, mainly African-Americans. The disease occurs in about 1 out of every 500 African-American births. There is a need for special matches between African-American blood donors and African-American patients with sickle cell disease. Although sickle cell patients can receive blood transfusions from any donor, it is very likely a donor from the same racial group will be a better match.