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National Association of Black Social Workers

National Association of Black Social Workers

Alice W. Campbell, Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries


The National Association of Black Social Workers was founded on May 8, 1968 in San Francisco, CA. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) sponsored a National Social Action Workshop on the Urban Crisis. The workshop was held in Washington, D. C., and most attendees were White. Black social workers who attended, including Garland Jaggers, were offended that so few Black social workers were invited, and decided to present their concerns in San Francisco at an upcoming meeting of the the National Conference on Social Welfare (NCSW), the umbrella organization of the NASW.

When members of the executive committee of NCSW refused to meet with the group of Black social workers, the group took over a stage, stated their differences, and walked out. Black social workers then created their own organization, the NABSW. (Garland Jaggers, Doin’ the Work, 2021).

The NABSW’s first position statement demanded representation on the executive, nomination, and all planning committees of the NCSW. The group demanded that “people who speak, write, research, and evaluate the Black community be Black people who are the experts in this area” and protested institutional racism and white supremacy in the welfare system and its programs. (NABSW, 1998)

Today, the NABSW has over 100 membership chapters and more than 30 student chapters across the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. The organization hosts national and international conferences, advocates for the inclusion of people of African ancestry at decision and policy-making levels, and works as a change agent in the areas of social work education, practice, and research. The NABSW is designed “to promote the welfare, survival, and liberation of the Black Community; and to advocate for social change at the national, state, and local level” (NABSW, History).


For further reading: 

Bell, J. (2014). The Black Power Movement and American Social Work. New York: Columbia University Press. doi:10.7312/bell16260.

Black Power, Black Liberation & Social Work: Back to the Beginning of the National Association of Black Social Workers – Founder Garland Jaggers, MSW & Archivist Denise McLane-Davison, PhD, AM  Doin’ The Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change (podcast) Ep. 38, February 1, 2021.

National Association of Black Social Workers organizational website

National Association of Black Social Workers (1998). Our Roots. Position Statement. Harambee: 30 Years of Unity. Thirtieth Annual Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, (April 7 – 11, 1998).

Reid-Merritt, P. (2010). Righteous Self Determination: The Black Social Work Movement in America. Baltimore: Inprint Editions/Black Classic Press.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Campbell, A. W. (2021). National Association of Black Social Workers. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from

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