The Black Perspective

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The Black Perspective: Our Guiding Philosophy

The core values reflect the Black Perspective, the guiding philosophy of the School of Social Work. The Black Perspective has been a part of the inception of the school and later evolved to include a focus on health and well-being and socio-cultural dynamics to be addressed in practice. The formalization of the Black Perspective occurred in the 1970s. It reaffirms the richness, productivity and vigor of the lives of African Americans, Africans, and people of color and marginalized and oppressed people in other parts of the world and emphasizes the delineation of ways in which the strengths of African Americans can be used to respond to oppressive and discriminatory systems. Additionally, the Black Perspective calls for sensitivity to the experiences of all oppressed and underserved groups and embraces an international dimension with special emphasis on Africa and Caribbean. Thus, while our students are uniquely prepared to engage and work with diverse Black populations, they are equally readied to work with all other populations, particularly those that have experienced oppression and discrimination.

Six Principles of the Black Perspective


The Black Perspective is an affirming and profoundly liberating stance at both the individual and collective levels. It celebrates the richness, productivity and vigor of the lives of African Americans and Blacks in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. The School of Social Work is committed to imbuing social work practice and theory with this Perspective. This mission means a commitment on our part to use increasing levels of scholastic productivity and rigor, teaching effectiveness, and social work practice competence as tools to advance the contemporary Black agenda, as well as a commitment to public services, a service arena of importance to the Black community.


Precisely because the Black Perspective is first of all an affirmation of strength, it insists on delineating ways in which that strength can be used to respond to the continuing oppression of Black people. The search for the causes, consequences and elimination of oppression is inherent in all areas of social work practice, research, and education.


The Black Perspective is distinctive but not monolithic. Simplistic, global characterizations of Black individuals, families, groups and communities are intolerable. It is equally unacceptable to overlook the genuine cultural, economic, political and social bonds of distinctiveness that do exist. Producing social work practitioners, researchers and educators who are faithful both to the commonalities of interest and experience and to the rich and complex diversities within the Black population is a demanding educational task. Knowledge of commonalities and diversities is continually expanding. Keeping abreast of that knowledge, contributing to it, and shaping social work practice to it are prime elements of our mission.


The Black Perspective is a positive and vivifying stance, not a negative or exclusionary one. This means that the School of Social Work has a special mission to educate Black social work practitioners, researchers and educators while at the same time providing quality professional education to all students regardless of race, creed, sex or national origin. The School's curriculum gives primacy to Black content and, in fact, the School is a national leader in the development of social work curriculum materials that are responsive to the Black population. At the same time, the curriculum provides all of our students with a broadly- based professional preparation which gives them career flexibility and the skills to work with the diverse elements of modern American society.

Social Justice

The Black Perspective means a special sensitivity to the experiences of all oppressed and underserved groups in American society. There is no contradiction between giving primacy to the Black experience and being responsive to the perspectives and experiences of other groups who have been subjected to oppressive forces. Howard University's heritage as a leader in the struggle for social justice places the School of Social Work in a uniquely advantageous position to work with all groups seeking equality and freedom from oppression


An international dimension with a special emphasis on Africa and the Caribbean area is intrinsic to the School's Black Perspective. The School of Social Work has a mission to educate international students for positions of direct social work practice and leadership roles in social welfare administration and policy in their home countries. A second aspect of the international dimension is our School's commitment to developing that area of social work practice dealing with refugees and other displaced populations -- both those individuals displaced within their own countries and those displaced across national borders. A final aspect of the international dimension is the School's desire to foster in its graduates a sense of involvement and commitment to other parts of the world as an element of their professional identity. This is especially important for those areas where issues of social justice and social welfare for people of color are crucial.