Celebrating Black History Month

African-American Social Work Pioneers

Whitney Young Polaroid

  • Whitney Young fought for cities to receive federal assistance to combat the social ills facing Black America, a strategy President Johnson included in his War on Poverty platform.
  • Young served as an advisor to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
  • In 1954, Young became Dean of Atlanta University’s School of Social Work.
  • In 1961, Young was named head of the National Urban League. During his tenure with the NUL, Young expanded its annual budget from $325,000 to $6.1 million.
  • The NASW Social Work Reinvestment Initiative is co-named for Young.

Elizabeth Haynes Polaroid

  • Elisabeth Ross Haynes was a pioneer social worker, author, politician, "race woman," and community activist.
  • Haynes advocated for the rights of African Americans and for the rights of women.
  • Haynes began her social work career as the first African American national board staff member with the Student Department of the YWCA.
  • Haynes was a pioneer in the women's movement of the Progressive Era and beyond, involving herself in researching, writing, and speaking about women's labor issues, women's spiritual and Christian growth, women's roles in the political arena, and women's use of all their talents and skills.

Lawrence Oxley Polaroid Smaller

  • Lawrence Oxley’s social work career began in 1925 in North Carolina as the Director of the Division of Work Among Negroes with the State Board of Charities and Public Welfare in North Carolina.
  • Oxley was a community organizer, mediator and architect of social change in his time. He was considered one of the most influential state welfare leaders.
  • Oxley served as special investigator for the War Department Commission on training camp activities.
  • Oxley was field director of Negro Work for Community Service in the States of Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, and Kentucky.