Social Work Advocacy for Black Reparations


  • V. Nikki Jones School of Social Work, Spalding University
  • Cathy McElderry Department of Social Work, Middle Tennessee State University
  • M. Lacey McNary School of Social Work, Spalding University
  • Carmelita L. Dotson Department of Social Work, Middle Tennessee State University
  • Kenya Frazier School of Social Work, Spalding University


reparations, justice, anti-racism, discrimination


Reparations are acknowledgement, acceptance, and redress for gross injustices and wrongdoings. U.S. Black reparations can attempt to address and repair systematic oppression through comprehensive interventions aimed at the vestiges of chattel enslavement and undoing and countering disproportionate, negative outcomes experienced by African Americans. Social workers committed to doing anti-racism should fervently advance reparations in social work education and practice as a social justice policy priority. This article envisions ways that social workers can actualize advocacy for reparations as an anti-racist practice. The social work profession has the potential to serve and support the Black reparations movement through education, collaboration, and community organizing.



Abdulle, H. (2019, December 23). Collective care and activism. Medium.

Aiwuyor, J. A. M., & Taifa, N. (2023, April 27). Comprehensive reparations: A blueprint for reparatory justice in the U.S. [Webinar]. Reparation Education Project and National Black Cultural Information Trust (REP & NBCIT).

Androff, D. (2022). A U.S. truth and reconciliation commission: Social work’s role in racial healing. Social Work, 67(3), 239-248.

Associated Press. (2007, March 27). Maryland issues apology for its role in slavery.

Blackwell, A. G. (2017, Winter). The curb-cut effect. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 28-33.

Boushel, M. (2000). What kind of people are we? 'Race', anti-racism and social welfare research. The British Journal of Social Work, 30(1), 71-89.

Bowman, B., Comer, J., & Johns, D. (2018). Addressing the African American achievement gap: Three leading educators issue a call to action. YC Young Children, 73(2), 14-23.

Brave Heart, M. Y. H., Chase, J., Elkins, J., & Altschul, D. B. (2011). Historical trauma among Indigenous peoples of the Americas: Concepts, research, and clinical considerations. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 43(4), 282-290.

Bridgeman, P. A., & Kemp, D. (2017) Reparations as a key to reconciliation with communities of slavery descent: A matter of social justice. North American Association of Christians in Social Work.

Brooks, R. L. (2004). Atonement and forgiveness: A new model for Black reparations. University

of California Press.

Canadian Association for Social Work Education. (2023). Reconciliation as a school of social work.

CARICOM Reparations Commission (2023). The global reparations movement.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, July 3). African American health: Creating equal opportunities for health. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved on May 26, 2021, from

Cohen, S. (Host). (2001, February 1). Episode 38: 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 [Audio Podcast]. Doin’ the Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change.

Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, H.R. 40, 117th Cong. (2021-2022).

Council on Social Work Education. (2021, March 24). Task force to advance anti-racism in social work education.

Council on Social Work Education. (2022). 2022 Educational policy and accreditation standards for baccalaureate and master’s social work.

Crowder, K., & Downey, L. (2010). Inter-neighborhood migration, race, and environmental hazards: Modeling microlevel processes of environmental inequality. American Journal of Sociology, 115(4), 1110-1149.

DeGruy Leary, J. (2005). Post traumatic slavery syndrome. Uptone Press.

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Dixon, J. (2008). The African-American Child Welfare Act: A legal redress for African-American Disproportionality in child protection cases. Berkeley Journal of African American Law & Policy, 10(2), 109-145.

Dominelli, L. (2018). Anti-racist social work (4th ed.). Palgrave.

Ekpe, L., & Toutant, S. (2022). Moving beyond performative allyship: A conceptual framework for anti-racist co-conspirators. In K. F. Johnson, N. M. Sparkman-Key, A. Meca, S. Z. Tarver (Eds.), Developing anti-racist practices in the helping professions: Inclusive theory, pedagogy, and application. Palgrave Macmillan.

Este, D., & Walmsley, C. (2022, October). Reparations for social workers of African descent a study with recommendations.

Fanon, F. (1963). The wretched of the earth. Presence Africaine.

Fontenot, K., Semega, J., & Kollar, M. (2018, September). Income and poverty in the United States: 2017. U.S. Census Bureau.

Gillespie, R. (2019, May 3). 25 years ago, Florida compensated survivors of Rosewood racial violence. Orlando Sentinel.

Gorski, P. C. (2019). Racial battle fatigue and activist burnout in racial justice activists of color at predominately White colleges and universities. Race Ethnicity and Education, 22(1), 1-20.

Graham, M. (2000). Honouring social work principles - Exploring the connections between anti-racist social work and African-centred worldviews. Social Work Education, 19(5), 423-436.

Grand Challenges for Social Work. (2020, June 26). Announcing the grand challenge to eliminate racism.

H.Con.Res.19-117th Cong., 2021-2022. Urging the establishment of a United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation.

Hinton, E., & Cook, D. (2021). The mass criminalization of Black Americans: A historical overview. Annual Review of Criminology, 4(1), 261-286.

International Federation of Social Workers. (2018, July 2) Global social work statement of ethical principles. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from

Jaggers, G. (2003). That rare moment in history: Volume I: A documentary history of the formation of the National Association of Black Social Workers. Garland L. Jaggers.

Johnson, K. (2020, June 25). U.S. public more aware of racial inequality but still rejects reparations: Reuters/Ipsos polling.

Jones, V. N., & McElderry, C. G. (2021). Social work and reparations: Applying a restorative justice approach. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

Jones, V. N., McElderry, C. G., & Conner, L. R. (2021). Social workers’ attitudes toward reparations for descendants of chattel slavery. Journal of Social Work, 1-25.

Jones, V. N., McNary, M. L., & Abdur-Rahman, R. (2022). Advancing anti-racist strategies in child advocacy. Critical Social Work, 23(2), 2-21.

Keating, F. (2000). Anti-racist perspectives: What are the gains for social work? Social Work Education, 19(1), 77-87.

Lee, B. (2021, February 25). Representative Barbara Lee and Senator Cory Booker reintroduce legislation to form Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Commission [press release].

Lockhart, P. R. (2019, June 20). America is having an unprecedented debate about reparations. What comes next? Vox.

McElderry, C. G., & Jones, V. N. (2021). Ending our silence: Promoting H.R. 40 to study slavery and institutionalized racism. Advances in Social Work, 21(4), 1246-1260.

Moscufo, M. (2022, April 26). Harvard sets up $100 million endowment fund for slavery reparations. Reuters.

National African-American Reparations Commission. (2021, July 20). The global reparations movement: The greatest political tide of the 21st century.

National Association of Black Social Workers. (n.d.). Code of ethics.

National Association of Black Social Workers. (2020). COVID-19 and Black social workers: A policy statement.

National Association of Black Social Workers. (2022, December 15). NABSW open letter to Association of Social Work Board (ASWB).

National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work. (2020, September 1). NADD anti-racist statement.

National Association of Social Workers. (2020a, June 10). Anti-racism now and forever more.

National Association of Social Workers. (2020b, August 21). Social workers must help dismantle systems of oppression and fight racism within social work profession.

National Association of Social Workers. (2021a). Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers.

National Association of Social Workers. (2021b, June). Undoing racism through social work: NASW report to the profession on racial justice priorities and action.

National Association of Social Workers. (2022, February 23). NASW anti-racism statement.

National Association of Social Workers of Zimbabwe. (n.d.). Constitution.

National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. (n.d.). HR 40 primer – Seize the time. Retrieved on November 22, 2022, from

National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. (2020, December 14). The five injuries of slavery defined.

Nteta, T. (2021, April 29). UMass Amherst/WCVB poll finds nearly half of Americans say the federal government definitely should not pay reparations to the descendants of slaves.

Okun, T. & Jones, K. (2019). White dominant culture & something different: A worksheet.

Ortega-Williams, A., & McLane-Davidson, D. (2021). Wringing out the “whitewash”: Confronting the hegemonic epistemologies of social work canons (Disrupting the reproduction of white normative). Advances in Social Work, 21(2/3), 566-587.

Phillips, H. (2020, May 9). Performative allyship is deadly (Here’s what to do instead). Forge.

Reid-Merritt, P. (2010). Righteous self determination: The black social work movement in America. Imprint Editions.

S.40-Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, 117th Cong. (2021-2022).

Schiele, J. H. (2017). The Afrocentric paradigm in social work: A historical perspective and future outlook, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 27(1-2), 15-26.

Shepherd, V. A., & Hemmings, G. D. L. (2022). Introduction to reparation for secondary schools. The University of West Indies.

Social Service Workers United-Chicago. (Jul 13, 2020). The NASW is failing us. Either it changes, or we will change it ourselves. Medium.

State of California Department of Justice. (2022). Reparations reports. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from

Taifa, N. (2022). Reparations on fire: How and why it’s spreading across America. House of Songhay II.

Treisman, R. (2021, March 23). In likely first, Chicago suburb of Evanston approves reparations for Black residents.

United Nations Department of Public Information. (2002). World conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.

United Nations General Assembly. (2005, December 16). Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law.

United Nations General Assembly. (2019, August 21). Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and racial intolerance.

Weil, M. (2005). The handbook for community practice. Sage Publications, Inc.






General articles