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Social Welfare Policy and History: Contributions of African Americans

This research guide highlights sources related to Social Welfare Policy and History.

Contributions of African Americans

Historical Perspectives on Social Welfare in the Black Community (1886-1939)

 Community development and creating community institutions are significant portions of social work, which are creations of African American social reformers. These articles and hundreds of articles that are available speak to the practice and policy roles created and implemented by African Americans. 


Carlton-LaNey, I. 1999. African American Social Work Pioneers' Response to Need. Washington, DC: NASW Press.


Carlton-LaNey, I., & S.C. Alexander. 2001. Early African American Social Welfare Pioneering Women: Working to Empower the Race and Community,  Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, Vol. 10(2), 67-83.

This article shows how African American women created and culled resources during an openly heinous period of American history, to create empowerment institutions of change.


Schiele, J.S., M.S. Jackson, C.N. Fairfax. 2005. Maggie Lena Walker and African American Community Development, Affilia, 20(1), 20-38.

This article speaks specifically to the philosophy and practice of community development and its manifestation in the African American community, by highlighting the business empowerment model of Maggie Lena Walker, the first Black woman bank president.


Fairfax, C. N. 2007. Alternatives to Foster Care Policy: The African American Child-Saving Legacy of Ida Barbour, 2007, Arete: Special Issue on Social Welfare History in the South, Vol.31, No.1/2, 73-85.

This article highlights the quiet and meaningful efforts of a Ida Barbour, who created one of the first Black day nurseries for Black children in the state of Virginia, in Portsmouth, Virginia, through group work and galvanizing resources.


Fairfax, Colita Nichols. 2014. “A Historical Account of Community Mobilization in Public Education in Early 20th Century African America: Introducing Miss Virginia Estelle Randolph: Master-Teacher and Community Mobilizer,” Women’s History Review, 23, 1, 1-17, doi: 10.1080/09612025.2013.811991.

This article examines the historic contribution that Ms. Randolph made in public education during segregation. Based upon this research, the article makes several suggestions about contemporary community mobilizing and education.


Some relevant subject headings that you can use include:

African Americans History
Slavery Law and Legislation
African Americans Social Conditions
African Americans Civil Rights History
Discrimination in Employment United States History

Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas. 2nd edition. Detroit, Macmillan, 2006. 6 vols.  ( Ref. E185 .E54)
Murray, Charles A. Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980. New York, Basic Books, 1984.  (HN57 .M84 –Herbert Marshall Collection)

Alston, Reginald J. "African Americans with Disabilities and the Social Security Administration's Return-to-Work Incentives," Journal of Disability Policy Studies 14(4), Spring 2004, 216-221. (Find article in Academic Search Complete)

Quadagno, Jill. " Race and American Social Policy," National Forum 76(3), Summer 1996, 35-38.  (Find article in Academic Search Complete)

Williams, David R. and Jackson, Pamela Braboy. "Social Sources of Racial Disparities in Health," Health Affairs 24(2), March/April 2005, 325-334.  (Find article in Academic Search Complete)