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James Dumpson

International social worker and educator James Russelle Dumpson was born on April 5, 1909 to James and Edythe Dumpson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dumpson’s family moved to West Philadelphia where he attended West Philadelphia Boys’ High School. He then attended Chaney Normal School (now Chaney Teachers College) and received a teaching certificate in 1932. He went on to Temple University to receive his B.A. degree in education in 1934. Dumpson taught elementary school for two years before moving to New York City to work for the Children’s Aid Society as a case worker. He then received his M.A. degree in social work from Fordam University and his Ph.D. from the University of Dacca in Ghana.

From 1953 to 1954, Dumpson served as a United Nations Advisor/Chief of Training in Social Welfare to the Government of Pakistan. In 1971, he worked as a consultant in Pakistan, and in 1977, received a fellowship to Pakistan through the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to Pakistan.

Dumpson began his association with Fordham University in 1957 as a Visiting Associate Professor in the Graduate Institute for Mission Studies. Ten years later, he returned to Fordham University as the Dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, with the faculty rank of professor.

In 1959, Dumpson was named Commissioner of Welfare for the City of New York, becoming the only African American welfare commissioner in the country. His appointment also marked the first time that a social worker had held the position. He then returned to New York seven years later to become administrator of the Human Resources Department.

As an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Dumpson served on various advisory commissions, including the Presidents Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse. In 1990, Dumpson was appointed to serve as New York City’s Health Service Administrator and Chairman of the Health and Hospitals Corporation. Upon retirement, he continued to teach at Fordham University until 2006.

Dumpson passed away on November 5, 2012.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category

West Philadelphia Boys’ High School

West Philadelphia High School

Octavius V. Catto Secondary School

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Temple University

Fordham University

First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

Cape May, New Jersey

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York



Favorite Food

Beef (Corned), Cabbage

Death Date


Short Description

City government appointee, presidential advisor, and social worker James Dumpson (1909 - 2012 ) was the first social worker to be named Commissioner of Welfare for the City of New York. He also held appointments as advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and he served on various advisory commissions, including the President’s Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse.


Government of Pakistan

Children's Aid Society

City of New York

Fordham University

Health and Hospitals Corporation, NYC

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Slating of James Dumpson's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson lists his favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson describes his maternal grandparents' role in his family</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson recalls growing up in Philadelphia in the 1920s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson describes his experiences at Octavius V. Catto Secondary School</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson recalls his childhood community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 James Dumpson remembers West Philadelphia High School for Boys</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 James Dumpson talks about the role of music in his upbringing</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 James Dumpson describes his activities at West Philadelphia High School</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 James Dumpson recalls his experiences at Cheyney Training School for Teachers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 James Dumpson remembers working as a teacher in Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 James Dumpson recalls becoming at caseworker at the Children's Aid Society</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 James Dumpson describes his tenure at New York City's Children's Aid Society</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 James Dumpson recalls his work in child welfare for the City of New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 James Dumpson recalls being hired to consult for the United Nations</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 James Dumpson remembers his work with the United Nations in Pakistan</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 James Dumpson describes his work for New York City's Bureau of Child Welfare</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 James Dumpson describes his career in academia in New York City</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 James Dumpson recalls the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 James Dumpson recalls attending the March on Washington</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 James Dumpson recalls his chairmanship of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 James Dumpson recalls his chairmanship of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 James Dumpson describes his career since retiring from New York City government</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson describes his work in social welfare with the United Nations</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson describes his work with Whitney Young's National Urban League</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson describes the awards he received during his career</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson recalls prominent African American politicians from New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson describes his family life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson reflects upon his career in social welfare</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson reflects upon his values</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 James Dumpson describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 James Dumpson narrates his photographs</a>







James Dumpson recalls his experiences at Cheyney Training School for Teachers
James Dumpson remembers his work with the United Nations in Pakistan
So, how did you decide what school, what college you wanted to go to?$$I wanted to be a teacher at those days, and there was a man by the name of Leslie Pinckney Hill, a great African American educator, who had been a companion with Frederick Douglass, not Frederick Douglass, it's another American, African American luminary. But Leslie Pinckney Hill was then the president of the Cheyney Training School for Teachers, now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania [Cheyney, Pennsylvania], and it was decided--I decided, my mother [Edyth Smith Dumpson] supported it, having been a teacher herself, that I was gonna go into the teaching profession. And I went to Cheyney and had the great fortune of becoming associated with Leslie Pinckney Hill, one of the great African American educators in this country. And Cheyney became almost a landmark as the beginning of my professional career. I went to Cheyney, and it was at Cheyney that I heard about and learned about Negro spirituals, for example. It was at Cheyney that I learned about leaders in the African American history books. It was at Cheyney that--it was at Cheyney that I became an African American in the true sense of that term. And the roots for that, from my identification as an African American, my knowledge now of African American contribution to American culture and to world culture, began in my relationship with Leslie Pinckney Hill at Cheyney.$$Okay, what else stands out about your college years?$$Well in addition to what I just said about Cheyney and professional preparation as a teacher, there was a woman named Laura Wheeler Waring, who was our music teacher at Cheyney, and through her I became interested in, committed to music written by African Americans. I began to know the spirituals, I began to know people like Nathaniel Dett [R. Nathaniel Dett], then later Marian Anderson who was practically a neighbor of mine in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. And (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) So this was in college?$$This was in Cheyney Training--$$Cheyney, okay--$$--School, Cheyney normal school, now Cheyney Teachers College.$$All right, so, what happens as you begin to get ready for graduation from college?$$Well, to begin to get ready for graduation from college two things happened. One, I realized that I was at a, what was then a normal school that was just becoming a teachers college, that was Cheyney, and that was part of the Pennsylvania higher education system. I then realized that my degree from Cheyney was not gonna be enough to get me where I thought I wanted to go, where I belonged, and therefore I began to take courses at Temple University [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] and got my first graduate degree from Temple University. Then, of course, I was in the midst of the whole educational system and knew that that was not enough, and I had to go on and finally ended up, of course, with a Ph.D. and all the rest of it--$Now, you accepted this position to go to Pakistan. So tell me about life in Pakistan.$$Oh, it was great.$$(Laughter) Okay.$$Make my reservation for tomorrow.$$Okay.$$I went there as advisor to the government in child welfare and my experience there with the government and with the community for the academic community and the community at large led to my, of course, teaching at what they then had as in social welfare, and child welfare which was very meager in terms of what they needed. And I suppose, as I look back on it, my real contribution was helping them set up a school of social work with an emphasis on family and child welfare in Lahore [Pakistan] and in Dhaka [Dhaka, Pakistan; Dhaka, Bangladesh] and then in Karachi [Pakistan], the three major cities of that country. It was my first international experience. I'd never been out of the country to work and I must tell you it was probably the richest professional experience I ever had in my life, or ever can have.$$What made that so?$$First of all, the commitment of the United Nations [UN] to developing countries and by commitment. I mean not only verbal commitment, but material commitment, money and staffing. Secondly the eagerness and acceptance of the Pakistani people themselves, recognition of their need to get on board with their social develop- educational development and social welfare. And number three was the commitment of the people whom we trained, who are now the social work leadership in that country. Without those three parts we could have done nothing, and Pakistan would not be where it is in the league of nations of social welfare and social development. That was probably the richest experience that I've ever--will ever have in my life, of working in a new culture, African American among Asians, fear of the United States in that country, not spoken of course, but fear, some of it envy. Misunderstanding of who we are as Americans, suspicion about race relations in this country, and here's a black man coming to our country, a Christian in a Muslim country. All of those conflicting contributions in the picture, and the United Nations, and then America, and then the Muslim world, coming together or being in surroundings, in which you then are going out to help them set up a social welfare education program. It was quite a, as I look back on it, probably one of the richest challenges that anybody could possibly have.$$Okay.$$But I did it with the help of the government in Pakistan, with the support of the United Nations social development department [Commission for Social Development], but most importantly with the people, the family--leadership, the families of--who were all Pakistani in Karachi and Dhaka, and Lahore.$$Okay, so you were there for, for about a year, is that right?$$I was there two years.$$Two years?$$And then I've gone back periodically.$$Okay, all right, so we're really now in 1953, you were there from 1953 to 1954?$$That was the official of the United Nations; I'm still there (laughter).$$Yeah, but I'm just saying this is when you (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes, officially, yes--$$--first went--$$When I first went was '53 [1953] to '54 [1954]--$$--fifty-four [1954]--$$That's correct--$$Okay, all right.