History Notes

group holding hands in masks


Dynamics of Racism in Social Work Practice

Edited by James A. Goodman. NASW, 1973
This collection of articles represents an attempt to offer a perspective on the therapeutic encounters between blacks and whites in the client-worker relationship, in which the problems in black-white interaction must be seen in the context of the societal forces that give rise to dysfunctional behavior at all levels of the community.

Social Work Journal Centennial Issue

 This November 1998 issue of Social Work addresses the 100 year history of the profession, and looks at social justice perspectives.

NASW: 65 Years of Advocacy

Since its inception in 1955, NASW has been an advocate for social workers, social justice and social welfare. From marching for civil rights in the streets of Washington, D.C., in the 1960s to supporting marriage equality in the 2000s, the association has actively backed initiatives and legislation that promote equality for everyone, help establish social safety net programs, and elevate and protect social workers.

NASW's Policy Statement on Racism

NASW believes that social workers have an ethical responsibility to commit to cultural competency in their workplace with fellow employees, with those under their supervision, and, most important, in their areas of practice. In addition, with regard to policy for responding to current incidents of institutional and other forms of racism, change can be achieved by working with national and state coalitions, along with other organizations with a civil rights and social justice agenda, to advocate for reforms in public policies and to enact legislation that will eliminate discrimination and disparities based on race and ethnicity.

The Vote

One hundred years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, the PBS production "The Vote" tells the dramatic culmination story of the hard-fought campaign waged by American women for the right to vote — a transformative cultural and political movement that resulted in the largest expansion of voting rights in U.S. history.

Social Work and Eugenics

It is essential that social workers and others educate themselves about this history to understand where modern discussions of genetic testing and other advanced technologies might lead. 

Eugenics: We can learn from history

Our profession must embrace critical thinking when it comes to policies and practices related to reproduction specifically and vulnerable groups more generally. 

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

This Hallmark Hall of Fame original movie tells the story of Irena Sendler, a social worker and member of the Polish underground who was arrested by the Nazis for saving the lives of nearly 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto.

The Social Welfare History Project

Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries
Pioneering social worker John E. (Jack) Hansan, Ph.D. (1930 – 2019), launched the Social Welfare History Project in 2010. Recognizing the power of the World Wide Web as an information-sharing platform, Hansan created the site to help the public understand and appreciate the history of social reform and social welfare services that have strengthened the fabric of American society. The Social Welfare History Project reflected not only on glory and greatness, but also explored the acts of omission and commissions of hurt and discrimination.

We Mourn for All We Do Not Know

The Atlantic, Feb. 9, 2021
Introduces a project from The Atlantic on American history, Black life, and the resilience of memory.

Race, class, and the role of social workers in racial justice

St. Catherine University, Feb. 28, 2017, summit on racial justice.

How to Be Anti-Racist: A Social Worker’s Perspective

University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Oct. 28, 2020
Being anti-racist means committing to identifying how racism manifests in social and cultural norms and how to address racism at the individual and structural levels.

A Historical Perspective of Social Work and Race

Leigh-Anne Francis, Smith College School for Social Work, July 19, 2017
In this video, Dr. Leigh-Anne Francis, an assistant professor with a dual appointment in the departments of African American Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at The College of New Jersey speaks about the historical, convergent forces of ideological and institutional racism, classism, sexism, and carceral state violence impacting the individuals and communities social workers encounter in the field.

In Pursuit of Racial Equity: The Social Worker’s Role

Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions, May 11, 2021
This infographic, produced by the Ohio University's online master of social work program, shows how social workers across the country work with individuals experiencing racism in their local communities and continue to raise awareness and promote racial equity.

Unpack the history of social work

Deana Ayers, Anti-Racism Daily, October 28, 2020
To fully understand the extent of social workers participation in racist policies and programs, we need to look at the roots of the profession in America.

Confronting the White Elephant: White Privilege in Social Services

Brittany Alfarano, MSW, Social Work Today
After observing other white social workers' practices and reflecting on her own, Brittany Alfarano anaylses the issue of white privilege leading to blind spots in social workers' practices, and offers a list of some ways in which white social workers may be unintentionally perpetuating white privilege.

Actions that White Social Work Educators can do now for Racial Justice

L. I. Hitchcock and M. Sage, Teaching and Learning in Social Work blog, August 16, 2020
The authors suggest a list of actions social work educators can do in the pursuit of racial justice.

Critical Race Theory: Opportunities for Application in Social Work Practice and Policy

Karen M. Kolivoski, Addie Weaver, and Monique Constance-Huggins, Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 2014
This article introduces critical race theory, articulates its alignment with social work's professional mission and values, describes its central tenets, and applies the tenets to racial disparities within three areas of practice particularly relevant for social work: child welfare system involvement, receipt of public assistance, and access to mental health treatment.