5 Trailblazing Black Women in Child Welfare You Should Know

Learn the stories of five phenomenal Black women who’ve changed the landscape of child welfare!

Carrie Steele Logan
Carrie Steele Logan was born into slavery in 1829 and was orphaned as a child. After she was freed, she began working at a train depot. She saw many children who were displaced and without parents. She looked after some of the children herself, but soon realized she was destined to do something bigger.

In 1889, she founded the Carrie Steele Orphan Home, the first Black orphanage in the United States – offering housing, education and job training to prep its occupants for life beyond the foster home. The orphanage, now called the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home, is still in operation.

Janie Porter Barrett
Janie Porter Barrett, born 1865, was an educator and a pioneer in welfare work. In 1915, she established the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls, a residential school for young black girls who had been incarcerated. The school focused on character building, self-reliance and self-discipline, as well as teaching work skills to help the girls who lived there find employment and establish themselves in their community.

Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry
Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry was born in 1872. As a juvenile court worker, she was concerned with the harsh treatment of, and lack of services for, children of color.

In 1923, she formed the Missouri State Association of Colored Girls, an organization focused on advocating for equality for black individuals. In 1934, she helped found the Colored Big Sister Home for Girls, which provided much-needed child welfare services to girls in the area. The home existed until 1943, when the government began to provide child welfare services that included Black children.

Dorothy Pitman Hughes
Dorothy Pitman Hughes, born 1938, is a social welfare advocate, feminist and African-American activist. When she was 10 years old, her father was beaten and left for dead, a crime the family believes was committed by Ku Klux Klan members. She decided as a child that she would devote her life to activism.

Hughes owned and operated three early childcare centers, and an office supply business in Harlem. She co-founded the New York City Agency for Child Development, providing child welfare services, education services and juvenile justice services. In addition, Hughes organized the first shelter for battered women in New York City.

Marian Wright Edelman
Marian Wright Edelman, born 1939, is a steadfast advocate for children’s rights. She graduated from Yale Law School and became the first Black woman to be admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1964. In addition to working on racial justice and civil rights issues, she helped establish the Head Start Program, giving low-income families access to important early childhood programs and services.

In 1973, Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund, eventually persuading Congress to overhaul foster care, support adoption, improve childcare and better protect children who have a disability, are experiencing homelessness or have experienced abuse or neglect.