“At the beginning of World War II, African Americans were banned from blood donations.
At the start of World War II, the American Red Cross announced the need for blood, the need was to build up their supply for those wounded in the military. African Americans lined up with other Americans to help contribute-but blacks were all quickly turned away. Newspapers across the country read headlines such as “American Red Cross Bans Negro Blood!”
These actions set off a nationwide negative publicity firestorm. The American Red Cross worked to figure out a solution to handling “negro blood.” The new policy created would allow blood from African Americans, however, but it would be in line with the Jim Crow doctrine of separate but equal. The blood would be processed and dispensed separately “so that those receiving transfusions may be given plasma from the blood of their own race.”
Black newspapers, which were extremely popular and important at time, constantly ran coverage protesting blood segregation and exclusion, the papers featured front-page stories which were in boldface headlines.
An article which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association on July 4, 1942, officially weighed in against the policy, stating in part: “The segregation of the blood of white persons from the blood of Negroes in the blood ban is not only unscientific but is a grievous affront to the largest minority in our country.”
The Army surgeon general gave a statement on the issue, “For reasons not biologically convincing but which are commonly recognized as psychologically important in America, it is not deemed advisable to collect and mix Caucasian and Negro blood indiscriminately.” However, the Red Cross did not get it straightened out until 1950, when, after a decade of criticism, they finally stopped segregating blood. However, it took some states longer to come around, including Louisiana.