An Introduction to a Special Section on the HBCU Experience: Implications for 21st Century Social Work Education

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Social Work Education

Publication Date


Date Added



The distinctive spirit and rich culture of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are the basis for a unique vision and mission to embrace and educate African Americans and all individuals and communities to whom access to higher education has been historically denied. Despite the realities of inequitable access to resources, the uniqueness of the HBCU experience lies in the ability to educate individuals from a collective and holistic perspective, with an understanding that individuals enter the academy with the rich history and collective hopes and aspirations of their families and communities. Approximately 62 HBCUs in the United States have social work programs, which attests to a tremendous contribution to social work education. HBCUs prepare social workers of color and social workers who are interested in working primarily with communities of color for leadership and service to underserved rural and urban communities. Capitalizing on student knowledge and experience and their strong ties with their communities in the United States and around the world, community give-back and engagement has been an important aspect of educating students. This holistic conceptualization of learning, teaching, and engaging is not only the foundation of the HBCU experience, but it is also core to social work education. The first of its kind, this special section seeks to create an initial platform for recognizing and celebrating innovation and excellence, and the extraordinary contributions of social work programs in HBCUs to social work education, which includes models, perspectives, and ideas that can be translated across social work education and institutions of higher education in general. In essence, this special section discusses how HBCU social work programs are producing competent versatile professionals and leaders who are responsive to 21st century demands of families and communities and cultural shifts. Highlighted in this special section are articles that describe the history of the HBCUs and social work programs, the nurturing context of social work programs in HBCUs in terms of meeting the students where they are and ensuring safe spaces for learning, unique aspects of social work curricula in HBCUs, relevant approaches and theories that are taught in HBCUs, the incredible scholarly contributions of faculty in HBCUs, innovations in social work and entrepreneurship, and intersectionality of research and practice within a historical context. Moving forward, this body of work will serve as the basis for continuous recognition of the phenomenal contributions of HBCUs, not only to social work education, but also to the academy and communities nationally and globally.






Social Work