Inside a display case at the Staten Island Museum is a nursing cap.

The cap belongs to Curlene Jennings Bennett, who wore it during her time at the Bellevue School of Nursing. After graduation in 1957, she worked at Sea View Hospital, which opened more than 40 years earlier to take care of patients with the deadly disease called tuberculosis.

“They had maybe one nurse for a whole ward, and I had been used to that, because Bellevue, you had to work hard at Bellevue, so I didn’t mind that,” said Jennings Bennett, whose story is just one of those told in an exhibition at the museum called  “Taking Care: The Black Angels of Sea View Hospital.”


What You Need To Know

  • “Taking Care: The Black Angels of Sea View Hospital” is a new exhibition at Staten Island Museum
  • The exhibition tells the story of the hundreds of Black nurses who cared for tuberculosis patients at Staten Island’s Sea View Hospital from the 1930s until the 1960s
  • The nurses administered the clinical trials for a drug that would eventually cure the disease
  • The new exhibition runs through the end of the year


The exhibit chronicles the hundreds of Black nurses from around the country who came to work at Sea View in the 1930s through the 1960s, stepping in to fill positions vacated by white women and risking their lives caring for tuberculosis patients.

Many administered the clinical trials of the drug that eventually cured the disease.

“The patients gave them the title the Black Angels because of the care that they received from them,” said Gabriella Leone, who co-curated the Staten Island exhibit.

The exhibition features artifacts, photos and the individual stories of nurses, like Virginia Allen. Now 92 years old, Allen came to work at Sea View from Detroit at the age of 16.

“Everything was washed, sterilized, and then we used it over and over again, including the gloves,” Allen said when talking about life at the hospital.

There is also an immersive film showing called “Back and Song,” a meditative film and art installation made by artists Elissa Blount Moorhead and Bradford Young, which looks back on generations of Black female healers and healing.

“I mean to me, it almost feels like being in a womb. It feels like being taken care of, and also the artists shot some of the objects in the exhibition too and incorporated them into this film,” said Rylee Eterginoso, who co-curated the exhibit with Leone.

The exhibition runs through the end of the year. The museum is located on the grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden.