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Influential Figures in Social Work

Alice Walker

Alice Walker is an African American internationally renowned activist, author, actor, and poet. Through the skills and talents, Walker has explored and exposed gender discrimination, patriarchy, and gender discrimination within African Americans and racism from the whites (Horsley, 2014). For example, the activist described the struggles of a black woman with domestic violence and motherhood following racism and a patriarchal family structure in her novel, “The Color Purple” (Horsley, 2014). She has also earned awards such as “Humanist of the Year” from the American Humanist Association (Horsley, 2014). The activist has contributed to the generalist practice knowledge by showing the value of focusing on the bigger picture, family and community structures as the source and solution to social issues (Langer & Leitz 2014). Throughout her work, Walker shows that patriarchy and gender discrimination results from mistrust within families and the larger African American framework.

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Jane Addams

Born in 1860, Jane Addams was an American progressive reformer and activist who focused on improving society through different interventions such as education. The activist’s general contribution influenced community members to become reformers like her and support various movements to help minorities and the poor (Michals, 2017). As a progressive reformer, Addams established a settlement housing program for the poor, which she used in enlightening and equipping women with skills to become independent in life (Michals, 2017). In Activism, Addams led others to establish community support policies, including labor regulations to protect women and children. In her contribution to the social work knowledge base, Addams showed that practitioners could effectively meet vulnerable people’s needs if they combine micro and macro practice (Androff & McPherson, 2014). The activist’s work at both individual and community levels provides a structure of how social workers, through micro-macro approach, attract public awareness about social issues, improve practitioner strength and consolidate resources, including human capital.

Sandra Bernabei

Sandra Bernabei is a recognized social worker who has received different awards for her support of humanity, including a social worker of the year and WestCOP Community Service. According to the Network for Social Work Management (NSWM) (n.d), the activist focuses on solving racism among marginalized communities. In her accomplishments towards the goal, Bernabei founded the Anti-racist Alliance, a movement that explores and educates people and institutions on structural racism (NSWM, n.d). The Anti-racist Alliance seeks to develop an informed community about the development of racism and, therefore, influence policies that address the issue. Bernabei has contributed to the social work knowledge base by demonstrating the need for and applying evidence in solving community issues that guide a generalist’s competencies, including assessment and intervention (Choi et al., 2015). Her approach to educating people about the structure of racism reveals the importance of research before intervention alongside the wider community’s inclusion in solving social issues.

Jane Addams’ Approach to Migrant and Immigrant Issues

Migrants and immigrants face divergent problems surrounding discrimination and lack of employment resulting from a deficiency in skills and opportunities. Addams would approach the discrimination problem from a micro and macro perspective following her generalists’ approach that includes ecological and client-centered models. Ecological perspectives view a problem due to unsupportive community structures, while client-centered focuses on an individual’s abilities (Langer & Leitz, 2014). Similarly, Addams equipped the vulnerable with skills and other support to work while lobbying for policies to provide for their rights. In the case of immigrants and migrants, the activist would offer training in different work areas while lobbing for laws that discourage discrimination in institutions and communities.


Androff, D. & McPherson, J. (2014). Can human rights-based social work practice bridge the micro/macro divide? In K. R. Libal, S. M. Berthold, R. L. Thomas & L. M. Healy (Eds.) Advancing Human Rights in Social Work Education. Council on Social Work Education.

Choi, M. J., Urbanski, P., Fortune, A. E., & Rogers, C. (2015). Early career patterns for social work graduates. Journal of Social Work Education, 51(3), 475-493. Web.

Horsley, J. (2014). Alice Walker. Fembio. Web.

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Langer, C. L., & Lietz, C. A. (2015). Applying theory to generalist social work practice. Wiley.

Michals, D. (2017). Jane Addams. Woman’s History. Web.

Network for Social Work Management (n.d). Sandra Bernabei, founder of the Anti-Racist Alliance. Social Work Manager. Web.

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