From May 2001 NASW NEWS
Copyright 2001, National Association of Social Workers, Inc.

Social Work History Video Debuts

Jane Addams's Hull House in Chicago

A social work landmark: Jane Addams's Hull House in Chicago

Tenacious social work pioneers and struggles for social justice are featured.

By John V. O'Neill, MSW, NEWS Staff

NASW and the Council on Social Work Education have released the long-awaited history video, Legacies of Social Change: 100 Years of Professional Social Work in the United States.

Clips from the two-part, hour-long historical documentary were shown at the NASW conference in Baltimore in November, and the premiere of the full video was held at CSWE's annual meeting in Dallas in March.

The video tells the story of the birth and growth of professional social work against a backdrop of social change in American history during the past century. The fights for social justice, civil rights and programs for the poor are viewed through the lives and careers of some of social work's tenacious pioneers. Their stories tell of the values, struggles and achievements in creating and carrying out social work's missions.

To no one's surprise, the documentary begins with the life of Jane Addams who established Hull House in Chicago, a settlement house, and Mary Richmond who wrote the first comprehensive statement of principles of direct social work practice.

Featured next is E. Franklin Frazier, an African-American educator who was a champion of civil rights and a researcher of the black family and black middle class.

Following are three veterans of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, where so many social welfare programs began, some conceived by social workers. They include:

  • Harry Hopkins, a trusted Roosevelt adviser, who ran Depression-era relief programs as head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and as secretary of commerce.
  • Francis Perkins, Roosevelt's secretary of labor, the first woman member of a president's Cabinet. She advocated improved working conditions, including minimum wages, maximum hours, child labor legislation and unemployment compensation.
  • Jane Hoey, Roosevelt administration head of the Bureau of Public Assistance and, later, the Bureau of Family Services in the Social Security Administration, where she was responsible for implementing the Social Security Public Assistance Act.

In the post-World War II era the video looks at the work of Delwin M. Anderson, who was a key leader in the Veterans Administration after the war and director of V.A. social work services from 1964 to 1974.

Featured next is Whitney Young, former NASW president and executive director of the Urban League. He was an adviser to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Time magazine cited Young's 1963 call for a domestic Marshall Plan as an inspiration for President Johnson's War on Poverty.

The final feature is about Ana DuMois, who helped create neighborhood health care facilities in recent years.

The video was conceived as part of the yearlong centennial celebration of professional social work in 1998. Key movers included Ann Weick, social work dean at the University of Kansas, and Karen Haynes, now president of the University of Houston at Victoria, who helped secure the $142,000 funding from the Brown Foundation of Houston.

"It was really important to us that there be a professionally produced video capturing the history of social work as a way to both document it and share it with social work students, NASW chapter members and the public," said Weick.

A panel called the Social Welfare History Group was created to be volunteer consultants on content, working with the production company. The panel included John Herrick of the Michigan State University faculty, Leslie Leighninger of Arizona State University and Yolanda Burwell of East Carolina University.

The video was produced by the Educational Film Center of Annandale, Va. An anonymous donation of $15,000 helped with travel expenses.

"The documentary shows the remarkable contributions of social workers to contemporary life in America and can inspire viewers to continue the tradition of improving the lives of people and society," said Lahne Curry of NASW's public affairs staff.

Suggestions for use of the video, according to the public affairs staff, include:

  • By NASW groups during community events and recruitment.
  • By middle school and high school teachers during career days.
  • By libraries in career sections.
  • By social service agencies during Social Work Month and new employee orientations.
  • By government and history classes during discussions of poverty and equality.

For details: (800) 227-3590

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