The Health and Human Services Department at City Tech, in conjunction with the African American Studies Department, held its first Victoria Earle Matthews Project lecture on how gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and class intersect to impact health and human services on April 3. Dr. Alma Carten, professor and social worker from New York University, placed Matthews’ life into a broader historical context in her presentation “Making Connections: Social Work Practice in the 19th and 20th Century.”
Dr. Marta Effinger-Crichlow, chair of the African American Studies Department, gave a brief overview of Victoria Earle Matthews’ involvement in social activism, including her founding of the White Rose Mission settlement house for young black women, and her involvement in the Black Women’s Club movement. Dr. Christine Thorpe, chair of Human Services, introduced Dr. Carten.
To a standing-room-only audience of students and faculty, Carten emphasized the impact that reconstruction and Jim Crow laws had on Victoria Earle Matthews, shaping her passion for justice and a life-long commitment to racial and gender equality. Matthews participated in the founding of the Woman’s Loyal Union, a civil rights organization that worked against racial discrimination and supported the anti-lynching crusade of the journalist Ida B. Wells. Matthews also served as the chair of the National Association of Colored Women and spoke on the issues of the times. She was best known for her speeches “The Value of Race Literature” and “The Role of Afro-American Women,” which were rooted in the philosophy of race pride and self-worth.
Carten expressed her concern that “social work is now drifting away from its mission.” In a nod to the values evident in Matthews’ life work, Carten urged students interested in human services and social work to bring activism back into the profession. “Solving social problems involves more than good intentions,” she said, “we have an obligation to lift as we climb and to improve the conditions of the oppressed.”
Named in honor of Victoria Earle Matthews (1861-1907), author, journalist, and social worker who was born into slavery, the Victoria Earle Matthews Project lecture series brings students and faculty together to discuss major issues and trends in the social work profession each spring.
(l to r) M. Effinger-Crichlow, M. Diaz, A. Carten, C. Thorpe