Dr. James Russelle Dumpson (April 5, 1909 – November 5, 2012) was a pioneer in social work. U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel said of Dumpson:
He is a gentle man of forceful voice and conviction, agitating on behalf of children, the elderly, and the impoverished in New York for 60 years, his country for 80 years—and we are all the better for it. A modern-day Renaissance man, Dr. Dumpson’s long-distinguished activism touches the fields of health, education, social justice, and academia. He is a familiar, popular, and pioneering leader in New York and in the African American community; an icon who worked tirelessly on behalf of others.
Dumpson worked as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Welfare from 1959 – 1965. At the time of his appointment he was the only African American welfare commissioner in the United States and also the first social worker to hold the position in New York City. In 1967 Dr. Dumpson was Dean of the Graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University. He returned to New York City’s welfare department, then (and now) known as the New York City Human Resources Administration/ Department of Social Services in 1974 as Administrator/ Commissioner after repeated requests to do so from Mayor Abraham Beame. He served until 1976. In addition to his service to the welfare department, Dr. Dumpson had academic appointments with New York University, Hunter College, and as mentioned Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. In 1990, he was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Health and Hospitals Corporation. In semi-retirement he was a Visiting Professor at Fordham University and a Senior Consultant with the New York Community Trust.
Now NASW Press has published Reflections on the American Social Welfare State: The Collected Papers of James R. Dumpson, PhD, 1930-1990, by Alma J. Carten. Reflections on the American Social Welfare State presents an insightful overview of American social welfare developments over a critical 60-year period, when social welfare policy was expanded to new heights through New Deal and civil rights legislation followed by conservative attacks on the foundation of these progressive policy reforms. Professor Alma J. Carten describes and critically assesses these developments, drawing upon scholarly accounts of social welfare history, her personal experience as a social policy analyst, and a careful examination of the papers of Dr. Dumpson.
Alma J. Carten, PhD, ACSW, LCSW, is an associate professor at the New York University Silver School of Social Work, where she has taught social welfare policy courses at the MSW and PhD levels and is former chair of the social welfare policies and programs curriculum area. Dr. Carten is a recipient of the school’s Dorothy Height Award for Distinguished Faculty, past president of New York City chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and recipient of the chapter’s award for Highest Social Work Leadership in New York City.
In Reflections on the American Social Welfare State, Professor Carten presents a unique social policy narrative resulting from a combination of objective social welfare policy history intertwined with her subjective biographical account of Dumpson, who influenced much of that history. The resulting hybrid makes for informative and engaging reading. Professor Carten quotes extensively from the Dumpson papers to illustrate his philosophical approach to social welfare policy development, his wide-ranging contributions in shaping government programs for the poor, and influence on the social work profession and education. The issues addressed in the papers range from global topics such as the role of social welfare in modern society to health and human services administration, social planning in times of economic uncertainty, the nature of racism, education for effective social welfare and administrative practices, and the central role of social work in advancing the democratic goals of American society.
Dr. Dumpson is one of many social work pioneers, past and present, who have made and are continuing to make considerable contributions to the field, and yet many of their stories remain untold. The book closes this gap in the literature. Reflections is an important resource for students studying the history of social work and public policy, and for educators and practitioners in the field of health and human services, and celebrates the life and work on an important social work pioneer. NASW Press is proud to publish this important book.