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poetry Salaria Kea

The only African American woman to serve in the Spanish Civil War, nurse Salaria Kea fought racism all of her life.

Salaria Kea



By Peter Neil Carroll

She stood out, the one African American woman

to serve in the Spanish Civil War, a nurse who

spoke her mind, fought racism, saved lives.


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She’d been raised in Akron, Ohio, a segregated

society, black children banned from sports and

certain restaurants, seating at the movies.

I accepted it. I thought that was the world.

I wasn’t in heaven, this was the earth.

She studied nursing at Harlem Hospital,

dared protest northern-style Jim Crow,

once turning over a fully set “white table.”

When Ohio River flooded, she offered to

help the Red Cross. They replied the color

of her skin was more trouble than she was worth.

Why not Spain? a friend suggested. So Salaria

enlisted. What? someone asked, Spain, alone?

I wasn’t born twins, she said. I have to go alone.

Those were busy days. So much to do, so little

with which to do. She did find time to fall in

love, an Irish patient named Reilly, married him

at Villa Paz hospital, where they survived

bombings and she brought him back to Ohio.

Peter Neil Carroll’s new collection of poetry, Sketches from Spain: Homage to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (Main Street Rag Press, 2024) draws mini-biographies of about 80 American volunteer anti-fascists who fought against three dictators: Franco, Mussolini, Hitler.