The Black Power Movement and American Social Work

The Black Power Movement and American Social Work

Joyce M. Bell
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/bell16260
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  • Book Info
    The Black Power Movement and American Social Work
    Book Description:

    The Black Power movement has often been portrayed in history and popular culture as the quintessential "bad boy" of modern black movement making in America. Yet this image misses the full extent of Black Power's contributions to U.S. society, especially in regard to black professionals in social work.

    Relying on extensive archival research and oral history interviews, this study follows two groups of black social workers in the 1960s and 1970s as they mobilized Black Power ideas, strategies, and tactics to change their national professional associations. Comparing black dissenters within the National Federation of Settlements (NFS), who fought for concessions from within their organization, and those within the National Conference on Social Work (NCSW), who ultimately adopted a separatist strategy, this book shows how the Black Power influence was central to the rise of black professional associations. It provides a nuanced approach to studying race-based movements and offers a framework for understanding the role of social movements in shaping the nonstate organizations of civil society.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53801-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar

    Today it is not remarkable that Kenya Robinson,¹ an engineering major, is active in the National Society of Black Engineers, minored in African American studies, socialized at the Black Cultural Center on campus, and graduated with a kente cloth stole from a major flagship university. Nor is it odd that she jumped the broom when she married Jamal, a journalist who tutors teen writers through the National Association of Black Journalists. Though their lives have been indelibly shaped by Black Power, they are remarkably mainstream as African Americans go.

    In 1966, however, civil rights leaders like NAACP executive director Roy...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xx)
  5. 1 Introduction: RACE, RESISTANCE, AND THE CIVIL SPHERE
    (pp. 1-24)

    On wednesday, may 29, 1968, a group of black¹ social workers took over the 9:00 a.m. general assembly meeting of the 95th Annual National Conference on Social Welfare (NCSW).² There were 8,200 registrants—the largest NCSW conference to date (Vasey 1968). The theme of the conference was “An Action Platform for Human Welfare,” a timely title for a conference being held in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ongoing urban riots that followed. The group, made up of black social workers from around the country, had arrived early, cordoned off the center section, and...

  6. 2 Re-envisioning Black Power
    (pp. 25-44)

    The treatment of the Black Power movement in academic research has been insufficient, and the result is an underestimation of its impact on U.S. society. Many scholars have concluded that while the movement did not have much of an effect on the state itself, it had profound psychological and cultural ramifications for African Americans (Van Deburg 1992). That the Black Power movement inspired and educated black people about Africa, democratic pluralism, and the liberatory function of art, as well as creating space to celebrate a uniquely black aesthetic, is central to what scholars have had to say about its influence....

  7. 3 Black Power Professionals
    (pp. 45-69)

    During the late 1960s and early 1970s, greater access to education and employment opportunities for African Americans coincided with the dominance of Black Power politics and ideology in such a way that black people brought the movement with them into a variety of institutional settings. For example, black students’ push for black studies departments and the hiring of black faculty on college campuses meant that whole cohorts of African American scholars were entering the academy, as both students and professors, in small but unprecedented numbers. The expansion of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, with their call for “maximum feasible participation”...

  8. 4 “A Nice Social Tea Party”: THE ROCKY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL WORK AND BLACK LIBERATION
    (pp. 70-88)

    When four hundred black social workers walked out of the 1968 National Conference on Social Welfare, T. George Silcott, their spokesperson, commented to the press that the National Conference was “a do-nothing tea party group which has consistently demonstrated that it will not involve itself in social action.”¹ His statement hit at the heart of the balancing act that has defined the social work profession: a tension between the provision of services and engaging in social action has shaped the field’s professionalization projects, internal conflicts, and outside criticism of social workers. Indeed, the retreat from social action by the social...

  9. 5 “We Stand Before You, Not as a Separatist Body”: THE TECHNI-CULTURE MOVEMENT TO GAIN VOICE IN THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SETTLEMENTS
    (pp. 89-113)

    Even though the national federation of Settlements inserted itself into the political arena of the civil rights movement, the organization would distance itself from the emerging Black Power movement. This process of “setting apart” set the stage for the next period of reflection and renegotiation of the organization’s values, practices, and identity that would occur as black dissent rose within the federation in 1967.

    How to respond to militants became the question of the day, and settlement workers across the country were asking for guidance on how to deal with Black Power. The result was a discourse that allowed an...

  10. 6 “We’ll Build Our Own Thing”: THE EXIT STRATEGY OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK SOCIAL WORKERS
    (pp. 114-148)

    The walkout of four hundred black social workers from the 1968 National Conference on Social Welfare (NCSW) annual meeting was a powerful scene and remains a central element of the NABSW’s narrative history.¹ However, it was not the first plan of action for confronting the National Conference, nor was it the preferred one.

    In the April preceding the 1968 NCSW forum, a black caucus organized at the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) National Social Action Workshop on the Urban Crisis, held in memory of Martin Luther King Jr.² The Urban Crisis Conference (UCC) invited a powerhouse group of activists...

  11. 7 Exit and Voice in Intra-Organizational Social Movements
    (pp. 149-170)

    Both the nabsw founders and the social workers central to the Techni-Culture Movement acted on the perception of rising opportunities for change due to an atmosphere of uncertainty within the profession created by the gains of the civil rights movement and the rise of Black Power politics. Civil rights victories meant that by 1966, when these movements of black professionals began, legal segregation had been defeated, removing some of the obstacles to access. But the context of Black Power ushered in a new sort of ambiguity in the profession because it disturbed the racial norms and rules at a different...

  12. 8 Conclusion: INSTITUTIONALIZING BLACK POWER
    (pp. 171-180)

    Because the black power movement has been marginalized in the sociological study of social movements, its impacts have been underestimated. While the black cultural transformation it ushered in is critically important, the movement also had significant institutional outcomes. The Black Power movement shaped interracial interactions in established and emerging integrated organizations, and was the dominant organizing frame for African Americans seeking change within them during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The content of the movement gave form to the relationships within the organizations that African Americans found themselves in. While the civil rights movement had made great strides against...

  13. APPENDIX ONE Methods
    (pp. 181-187)
  14. APPENDIX TWO Founding Dates of Black Professional Associations
    (pp. 188-190)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 191-206)
  16. REFERENCES
    (pp. 207-220)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 221-236)