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Announcing the Jack A. Kirkland Papers

Jack Kirkland
Professor Jack Kirkland

The Jack A. Kirkland Papers consist primarily of his publications and writings on the American Black family and social and economic development. In addition, the collection includes materials relating to Kirkland’s professional activities, conference materials, correspondence, teaching in the Black Studies Program and the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, and research materials.

Jack Arnett Kirkland is an associate professor in the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. He donated initial material to the University Archives in 2020 and gave additions in 2022 and 2023. The collection, which is eleven linear feet, may grow with additional donations by Kirkland. As archivists, we are grateful to Professor Kirkland for donating his papers. The collection documents his long career at WashU and is a great piece of university history including early material from the Black Studies Program. It is a valuable resource to a variety of researchers.

Articles by Jack Kirkland
Articles by Professor Kirkland

The collection includes a wide variety of materials. One series is Kirkland’s teaching material consisting of syllabi from various classes and his teaching notes. Another series is Black Studies Program Material, which includes Black Student Guides from the early 1970s, program brochures, and publicity. Kirkland is a prolific writer and the collection includes his articles, reports, speeches, and more. His professional correspondence dates from the 1960s through the 2000s and includes information about his teaching, work with the community, and his time as the Director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. The collection documents Kirkland’s professional life.

Black Student Guide
Black Student Guides at WashU, 1970s

Born on October 28, 1931, in Blythedale, Pennsylvania, Kirkland attended Syracuse University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations in 1959, and his master of social work degree in social services. Kirkland was the first Black graduate of the Syracuse University School of Social Work and after graduation was inducted into the Phi Delta Kappa Education Honorary Society.

In 1964, Kirkland became chair of the Social Group Work Program at St. Louis University. In 1970, Kirkland became an associate professor at Washington University where he co-founded the Black Studies Program (now Department of African and African-American Studies) in 1974 and served as department chair. In 1980, he was the first chair and founder of the Social and Economic Development Concentration at Washington University, serving for ten years.

Kirkland is perhaps best known at Washington University for his field-based summer course, “Poverty—The Impact of Institutionalized Racism,” which immerses students in the community of East St. Louis and teaches them to strategize on policies that can combat the effects of urban blight and poverty. In 1975, Kirkland was voted Most Outstanding Teacher of the Year for Washington University. He also received the Most Outstanding Teacher Award for the Brown School of Social Work in 1988 and 1995. He received the Distinguished Faculty Alumni Award in 2010. His work was acknowledged with the creation of the endowed Jack. A. Kirkland Scholarship for Social and Economic Development, in recognition of his impact and legacy at the Brown School. The scholarship will support students with significant financial need who are committed to working in Black communities.

Kirkland’s academic career was influenced by his vast array of work outside the classroom. He served as director of community development for Peace Corps for Latin America from 1964 to 1967. In 1976, Missouri Governor Joseph Teasdale appointed him as the state’s director of transportation. His two years in the cabinet position helped to transform his thinking about social work, and the economic impact of policy on the lives of communities.

Kirkland also served as the Jeff-Vander-Lou Development Corporation’s director of economic development and program director, and executive director of Settlement Houses in the East and Midwest. In addition, he provided consultation for five years with the Department of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., for American Indian Nations in the Southwest.

Kirkland became the first Black person elected to the University City Board of Education and was a consultant in the school desegregation decree for St. Louis and St. Louis County. In 2010, Kirkland was appointed the executive board of the St. Louis County Economic Council and to the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority for St. Louis County. Currently, he serves as the social economic developer of The Helping Village in East St. Louis. Kirkland has also designed and led workshops in African American culture for public school teachers across the country, focused on improving multicultural classroom environments.

In the Words of Jack Kirkland

I gave my writings to the Washington University Library for others to see, ponder, and witness, along with me, the chronology of my attempted efforts to call this society into account, and to be retained and restrained, within the confines of equitable Social Justice. From my early days of activism, and throughout the progression of my career, I denote some highlights of my endeavors of interventions, in the attempt to make hoped change, in the rescripted manners undertaken, in the stream of my professional lifetime. For over fifty years, plus, of active involvement, in pursuit of the great issue of equity and achievement for the actual survival of the great experiment of Democracy, and in the full pursuit and implementation of Social Justice. The inclusion of some life activities, sporadically listed, and taken, examines social and political activities of times and work engagements in pursuit, to embrace a just society. I want to state that the fight for Social Justice is our organized assault against both blatant and subtle “Institutionalized Racism.”

Learn More: Jack A. Kirkland Papers. Please contact for more information about accessing the collection.

Sonya Rooney is the University Archivist and Sarah Schnuriger is the Manuscripts and Papers Processing Archivist in the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.