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Black History Month - Influential Social Workers
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NASW-PA is pleased to celebrate Black History Month by highlighting influential African American social workers. These social workers have helped and continue to help shape the social work profession. Please join us in celebrating their accomplishments.


Social Worker of the Past:  Dr. Dorothy Height

“We have to improve life, not just for those who have the most skills and those who know how to manipulate the system, but also for those who often have so much to give but never get the opportunity.”


Dr. Dorothy Height was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1912, and was educated in the public schools of Rankin, Pennsylvania; outside of Pittsburgh. Dr. Height won an oratorical scholarship, which along with a record of scholastic excellence, allowed her to enroll in New York University where she earned her bachelor and master's degrees in four years. Dr. Height did further postgraduate work at Columbia University and the New York School of Social Work. Ms. Height was among the coalition of African American leaders who pushed civil rights to the center of the American political stage after World War II, and she was a key figure in the struggles for school desegregation, voting rights, employment opportunities and public accommodations in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Height was often times known as the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement." President Barack Obama stated that “She never cared about who got the credit. What she cared about was the cause. The cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of opportunity, freedom’s cause.”


Today's Social Worker: Darlyne Bailey, MS, PhD, LISW

Dean and Professor at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College, Special Assistant to the President for Community Partnerships


With a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and certificate in Secondary Education as one of the first women to attend Lafayette College, Darlyne completed a master’s degree from the School of Social Work at Columbia University. After working as an administrator and a clinician in the field of mental health, Darlyne later earned a doctorate in Organizational Behavior from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.



Dr. Bailey’s journey in academic administration began in 1994 when she was appointed Dean of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, a position she held until 2002.  Fulfilling a desire to “pay back” her place of birth, Harlem, New York; she accepted the invitation to serve as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. In 2006 Dr. Bailey left Columbia to become the first Dean of the then newly merged College of Education and Human Development and Assistant to the President at the University of Minnesota.


A recognized leader, Darlyne has been the recipient of many awards and honors and is a proud alumna of the W.K. Kellogg National Leadership Program, as a Group XIII Fellow. As an educator, Darlyne’s commitment to multidisciplinary and multicultural practice is reflected in her research and teaching, as well as her service on community-based and professional boards, including: the Stoneleigh Foundation and the Maternity Care Coalition in Philadelphia; the National Human Services Assembly in Washington, D.C.; the Givens Foundation for African American Literature in Minnesota; and the New York based Leader to Leader Institute (formerly the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Non-Profit Management). 


Darlyne has written numerous articles and book chapters, in addition to co-authoring several books (including Strategic Alliances Among Health and Human Services Organizations: From Affiliations to Consolidations) with colleagues in academia and in the communities she has served.  Her most recent book, Sustaining Our Spirits:  Women Leaders Thriving for Today and Tomorrow now has a website ( in response to readers’ requests to connect with others across the U.S.A. and abroad. 


Dr. Darlyne Bailey has come to see her life’s work as one of ‘connection,' forging partnerships both within and across institutions to create the visionary and engaged leadership that is critical to ensuring that all fulfill their highest potential. 


Social Worker of the Past: E. Franklin Frazier


Edward Franklin Frazier was born September 24, 1894 in Baltimore, Maryland. Upon his graduation from Colored High School, Baltimore, he was awarded, the school's annual scholarship to Howard University. Upon graduation from Howard in 1916, Frazier began a teaching career, which led him to high schools in Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland. In 1920 Frazier became a research fellow at the New York School of Social Work. From 1921 to 1922, he traveled to Denmark on an American Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship. Upon his return he accepted a position at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. The Morehouse position allowed him to combine the teaching of sociology with the direction of the Atlanta School of Social Work. During his Morehouse tenure, Frazier began his writings on the Negro family. His controversial publication "The Pathology of Race Prejudice" in Forum forced him to leave Morehouse.


Frazier was a prolific writer, producing some nine books (published in varying translations and editions) and over one hundred articles and essays. Between 1951 and 1953, he served with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), traveling to Paris, Africa and the Middle East. During this period he continued his writing, focusing on the struggle of people of Africa and African descent to achieve equality, and on religion. His last book The Negro Church in America was published posthumously in 1964.


Frazier died on May 17, 1962. He has been ranked among the top African Americans for his influence of institutions and practices to accept the demands by African Americans for economic, political and social equality in American life. It is for his work and for his contributions to Howard University that the Howard University School of Social Work has created in his honor the E. Franklin Frazier Research Center.


Source: Thompson, A. (2000, May 24). E. Franklin Frazier. Retrieved from

Today's Social Worker:  Larry E. Davis, PhD

Dean, Donald M. Henderson Professor, and Director, Center on Race and Social Problems  

Larry E. Davis received his PhD from the University of Michigan's dual-degree program in social work and psychology in 1977. He also earned master's degrees in social work and psychology from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Michigan State University. 


Davis is the Dean of Pitt’s School of Social Work, where he also is the Donald M. Henderson Professor and Director of the Center on Race and Social Problems. He began his tenure at Pitt in the fall of 2001. He was previously at George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., where he was a professor of social work and psychology and held the E. Desmond Lee Chair in Ethnic and Racial Diversity. Davis’s professional interests include interracial group dynamics; the impact of race, gender, and class on interpersonal interactions; African American family formation; and youth. Davis has also received research funding from sources such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, and the National Institute of Mental Health.


Source: University of Pittsburgh

Social Worker of the Past: Whitney M. Young Jr. 

“Every man is our brother, and every man’s burden is our own. Where poverty exists, all are poorer. Where hate flourishes, all are corrupted. Where injustice reins, all are unequal.”


Whitney Moore Young Jr. was born in Kentucky in 1921. Young earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Kentucky State University where he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. From 1942-1944, while serving in the U.S. Army, he studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After his discharge, Young went on to earn his MSW from the University of Minnesota. He then began to work with the Urban League in Minnesota. He became executive secretary of the Urban League in Omaha, Nebraska. Young became the executive director of the National Urban League in 1961. Young also served as the Dean of the School of Social Work at Clark Atlanta University, which now bears his name.


Young became President of the National Association of Social Workers in 1969, serving until 1971. In 1970, Young called on social workers to take action via the NASW News. “The crisis in health and welfare services in our nation today highlights for NASW what many of us have been stressing for a long time: inherent in the responsibility for leadership in social welfare is responsibility for professional action. They are not disparate aspects of social work but merely two faces of the same coin to be spent on more and better services for the people who need our help. It is out of our belief in this broad definition of responsibility for social welfare that NASW is taking leadership in the efforts to reorder our nation’s priorities and future direction, and is calling on social workers everywhere to do the same.”


Young was a noted civil rights leader and statesman who worked to eradicate discrimination. He received many honorary degrees and awards —including the Medal of Freedom (1969), presented by President Lyndon Johnson—for his outstanding civil rights accomplishments.



Today's Social Worker: Mildred Joyner

President, Council on Social Work Education, Chair of West Chester University’s Undergraduate Social Work Department


People who make an impact often take leadership roles and have scholarships named after them – like Mildred “Mit” C. Joyner, Vice President of NASW. Joyner served as chair of West Chester University’s Undergraduate Social Work Department for twenty-nine years. She is an alumnus of the Howard University MSW program, class of 1974. Prof. Joyner is the immediate past President and Board Chair of the Council on Social Work Education. When serving as President of CSWE, she also served as the United States Representative on the board of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW).


Joyner co-authored Critical Multicultural Social Work (2008), and Caregivers for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya: An Ecological Perspective (2012). She is recognized nationally for her leadership, especially in gerontology social work education. In honor of Prof. Joyner’s leadership and vision, the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work created a scholarship – the Mit Joyner Gerontology Leadership Award – in 2005 for undergraduate social work faculty and students to promote leadership in gerontological social work practice through scholarship, best practices, and/or community connections. Most recently, Prof. Joyner made a presentation at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh on “Capacity Building of BSW and MSW Accredited Programs."


Prof. Joyner appoints leaders in social work education to all the various commissions, councils, and task forces of CSWE. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers; the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Director’s (BPD) and former president; and a board member of the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research Coalition. Prof. Joyner also is a past advisory board member of the Gero-Ed Center (gerontological education); former treasurer of the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research; and previous board member of the Institute for Geriatric Social Work. In 2011, she received the BPD Lifetime Achievement Award in Cincinnati, Ohio.


In the community, Prof. Joyner has been on the board of directors for DNB First (previously known as Downingtown National Bank) since 2005. She is the first woman and the first African American to serve on this prestigious community bank board of directors. In addition, Joyner served a passionate role as the immediate past Board Chair of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a national education and support organization whose goal is to improve the quality of life and help all women affected by breast cancer to take an active role in their ongoing recovery or management of the disease.


In the field of social work, Prof. Joyner’s research interests included organizational change, diversity and gerontology. As a member of the WCU faculty, she chaired the Undergraduate Social Work Program for more than 25 years. She was the Fundraising Chair of the Frederick Douglass Institute of West Chester University.


Mildred C. Joyner is devoted to the field of social work but also her family. She is married to the Hon. J. Curtis Joyner, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania who graduated from Howard Law School. They have three daughters: Dr. Jennifer Joyner-Hall, Clinical Psychologist of DC, and Nicole Joyner, Human Resource Manager of ADT in Atlanta, Georgia, and Attorney Jacqlyn Joyner in Chicago, Illinois.


Joyner acknowledges that her work in the area of social and economic justice is motivated by her father, Harold C. Carter, and the writings of W.E. Dubois and Frederick Douglass, poetry of Langston Hughes, the life and works of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, and Gandhi as well as many other civil right leaders. The Drum Major Instinct by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of her favorite passages and serves as the framework for her desire to do more.





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