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Celebrating Black History

We support our social work Code of Ethics through anti-racist practices, inclusion and empowering underserved members of our communities.

About Black History Month

The efforts and great accomplishments of Black individuals (referred to also as African Americans) have not always been acknowledged and/or publicly disseminated. In 1915, historian Carter G. Woodson, co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Several years later in 1926, amidst numerous challenges, and continually working to have the efforts of Black individuals accepted publicly, the association declared the second week of February to be formally referred to as “Negro History Week” in the United States of America. The selection of this particular week was intentional, as it included the birthdates of Frederick Douglass (an abolitionist who advocated for the freeing of slaves), and Abraham Lincoln (a former president who led the United States during the Civil War). Approximately 50 years later in 1976, then President Gerald Ford extended the week long recognition to include the entire month of February. Black History Month honors all Black individuals from all historical periods (past & present). It is important to note that Black History Month is also referred to as African American History Month as well.

black history month
Read on to learn more about key leaders in Black History, and for your chance to win 1 of 4 giveaways during the month of February!


A descendent of grandparents who escaped slavery, Thyra J. Edwards grew up in Houston, Texas, where she began her career as a teacher. Eventually she moved to Gary, Indiana, and later to Chicago where she was employed as a social worker. Edwards would then become a world lecturer, journalist, labor organizer, women’s rights advocate and civil rights activist all before her 40th birthday. By 1944 Edwards was heralded as one of the most outstanding Black women in the world. 

Biography courtesy of



Born the same year as the Emancipation Proclamation, Fernandis founded the first Black settlement house in the United States. The house offered free healthcare, food at affordable prices, childcare and other social services in Washington, D.C.  Fernandis also organized the Women’s Cooperative Civic League in Baltimore that worked to improve sanitation and health conditions in Black neighborhoods.  In 1920 she became the first Black social worker employed by the Baltimore Health Department. Fernandis continued to organize social welfare and public health activities in segregated Black communities into her retirement, opening a National Youth Administration office for housing homeless young women. 

 Biography courtesy of The New Living Deal Project



Lawrence Augustus Oxley was born in Boston and later served in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of first lieutenant during World War I. After the war, Oxley began a career in public service, eventually becoming the director of the North Carolina Board of Charities and Public Welfare’s Program for Black Americans from 1925 to 1933. He later became a high-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Labor and a member of President Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet”, a group of Black leaders in federal government who advised the president on issues important to the Black community. 

 Biography courtesy of 



The Reverend I. DeQuincey Newman was one of South Carolina’s most important leaders. He worked to bring peace and social justice to the state and the nation, leading the South Carolina NAACP through the turbulent 1960s. In 1983 he became the first Black state senator since Reconstruction (1886). He served as executive assistant to the Commissioner of the SC Department of Social Service from 1972-1974 and was named Director of the Rural Regional Coordination Demonstration Project in the Office of the Governor. His contributions to social justice and civil rights have been commemorated in numerous ways, including the creation of the Newman Institute and an endowed professorship in his name at the USC College of Social Work . 


Black History Month Quizzes

During the month of February, the Newman Institute webpage will highlight key African American leaders who have worked to create insurmountable change in our society. In an effort to honor the greatness of these leaders (and our amazing COSW students), the Institute will give away “Black History Month Swag Bags” to 4 lucky students who enter our drawings. All COSW students may enter each of the 4 drawings. However, only one submission per student/per drawing is allowed, and students are limited to winning only one (of the 4 total) drawings.

Question: What is a Black History Month Swag Bag?

Great question! A “swag bag” is a gift bag containing several cool items related to Black History Month themes, colors, and/or leaders. Each bag will contain a combination of the following items (but bags may not be identical in nature): Gift cards, books, stationery, t-shirts/apparel, mug/cup, blanket, lanyard, poster, etc.

Question: I am a student…how do I enter the drawing?

  1. Use the drop-down sections below to read new information about key African American leaders during the month of February!
  2. Use the information posted in each drop down to take a brief “Black History Quiz” for your chance to win. Only respondents with correct answers will be eligible to win.

Isaiah DeQuincey Newman (1911-1985), Methodist pastor, civil rights activist, and entrepreneur, led a remarkable life. He was a leading figure in the Civil Rights movement in South Carolina. He helped organize the Orangeburg branch of the NAACP in 1943, helped found the Progressive Democratic Party, and served the South Carolina NAACP as state field director from 1960 to 1969. From 1972 to 1974, he served as executive assistant to the Director of the S.C. Department of Social Services. From 1974 to 1981, he was Director of the Governor’s Rural Regional Coordination Demonstration Project. The confidant of many of South Carolina’s most distinguished leaders in government, in 1983, at age 72, he joined their ranks with his election to the South Carolina Senate. He became the first African American to serve in that body since Reconstruction. Due to ill health, he resigned from the Senate in July of 1985 and passed away shortly thereafter.

At his death, his friend, U.S. Senator “Fritz” Hollings said of Newman, “The Reverend Newman’s life is testimony to the transformation this country has undergone in the last thirty years. He not only was there to pry open the door of opportunity, he walked through it. In the years when equal justice under the law was only a dream for people of his race, the Reverend Newman was on the front line fighting the battles that dismantled the structure of segregation and discrimination, along with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Roy Wilkins.” Newman’s protégé, Ike Williams, who succeeded him as field director of the NAACP, said, “He stuck with a steady course in the movement,” and remembered Newman having said, “The problems of civil rights will never be solved on one side of the table. The black community and the white community must come together in mutual trust.” (The State, 22 October 1985).

Born on April 17, 1911, in Clyde Township, Darlington County, to the Rev. Meloncy C. and Charlotte (Lottie) Elizabeth Morris Newman, Newman was the fifth of their sixteen children. [In different biographical notes, the father’s name is spelled differently, including Mellon and Melondy.] He was educated in the Williamsburg County public schools and attended Claflin College. In 1931 he was admitted to ministry by the United Methodist Church and served as a pastor in both Georgia and South Carolina. In 1934, Newman received his BA degree from Clark College of Atlanta.

On April 27, 1937, Newman married Anne Pauline Hinton. They had one child, Morris DeQuincey Newman, now Emily Morris DeQuincey Newman. About that same year, he graduated from the Gammon Theological Seminary of Atlanta, and then returned to South Carolina for good.

Isaiah DeQuincey Newman Papers, p. 2, South Carolina Political Collections, The University of South Carolina Libraries


From 1950 to 1956 he served as District Superintendent of the Sumter District United Methodist Church. In 1959, the Newmans moved to Columbia, and from 1960 to 1969, Newman served the NAACP as state field director. In 1969, he accompanied Senator Fritz Hollings on Hollings’ now famous “Hunger Tours,” showing Hollings areas of abject poverty. Newman was a delegate to the 1968, 1972, and 1980 National Democratic Conventions, and a member of Governor-elect John West’s Inaugural Committee, 1970.

Newman served as executive assistant to R. Archie Ellis, Director of the state department of Social Services, from 1972 to 1974. In 1974, he was a field coordinator for Bryan Dorn’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign. From 1974 to 1981, Newman served as director of the Rural Regional Coordination Demonstration Project, later called Division of Rural Development, in the office of the Governor. In 1977, Newman was considered for appointment as Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. He received the Order of the Palmetto in 1979 and, in 1982, was named the Rural Citizen of the Year by the National Institute on Social Work in Rural Areas.

Long a close advisor to leaders in South Carolina government, in October 1983, Newman won a special election to represent Senate District 19 following Alex Sanders’ resignation to become a judge. He won a run-off victory in the Democratic primary over Christopher King and in the general election defeated Republican John Camp. At the age of 72, Newman became the first African American in the Senate since 1888. He was re-elected in 1984 but resigned in ill health that summer and passed away in October 1985.

In addition to his work in the ministry and as a leader in the civil rights movement, Newman was a true entrepreneur. Among his successes was creating Midcom, Inc., operator of WDPN FM of Columbia, which he served as President. He also founded Statewide Homes Foundation, a non-profit low-income housing sponsor, the Senior Citizens Service Center, the Coastal Plains Rural Development Corporation, and Ebony Development Corporation, a consortium of building contractors. Newman also was founder and first minister of Francis Burns United Methodist Church in Columbia.

Isaiah DeQuincey Newman Papers, pp. 2-3, South Carolina Political Collections, The University of South Carolina Libraries.


Alice Walker

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Dorothy Height

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Samuel L. Jackson

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Lester Granger

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