Addressing Racial Discrimination in the 1930s: Using a Historical Case Study to Inform Contemporary Social Justice Efforts
In this historical case study, we use the realism–idealism framework to analyze how three National Conference of Social Work (NCSW) leaders differed in their social justice advocacy to address racial segregation during the 1930s. We argue that advocacy should welcome approaches along the realism–idealism spectrum. Navigating internal difference and diverse viewpoints enables organizations to be more effective in their social justice advocacy. Managing internal disagreement enables organizations to be more effective externally. Allowing space for negotiation and voices of dissent is necessary to effectively address persistent, contemporary social justice issues like racial discrimination and exclusion.
KeywordsSocial justice Racial segregation Historical case study Realism–idealism framework Social justice advocacy
The authors wish to acknowledge the support of Felix Armfield, whose extensive research on Jones and the NUL was critical in our initial discovery, then understanding of the discussions concerning racial discrimination issues at the NCSW annual meetings. His personal correspondences with the first author were particularly helpful during the initial data collection. The support of Linnea Anderson, Archivist at the University of Minnesota Libraries Social Welfare History Archives, was essential in obtaining the Jacob Fisher papers. Her cooperation was critical to accessing primary data that included Fisher’s personal notes, his updates from the NCC, and his direct correspondences with Abbott and other NCSW leaders. Last, we wish to acknowledge the generous support of Professor Karen Staller over the development of the case study.
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