Lawrence Augusta Oxley (1887 -1973) Considered one of the most influential state welfare leaders of his time, Lawrence Oxley
was a community organizer, mediator and architect of social change all of his life. Oxley began his social work career in
Raleigh, North Carolina in 1925 as the Director of the Division of Work Among Negroes with the State Board of Charities and
Public Welfare in North Carolina. The Division of Work Among Negroes was the first of its kind in the nation and become a
model that other states copied because of Oxley's success. The Division sought to accomplish two goals: to engage in intelligent
studies of African American life and social conditions and to stimulate self-help among African American communities to work
on their own pressing issues. He was a consummate, can-do state administrator who defined and created a standard for social
work with African Americans.
He dealt with everything from child abuse and neglect to investigating state institutions. He was a liaison with county
officials as well as a mediator when racial conflicts arose. He worked with top African American and Caucasian leaders in
the state. Oxley's work was multifaceted. By all accounts he was a "field" man - speaking in the churches, organizations
and schools. He participated in professional social work and race relations conferences. He published numerous articles
in mainstream and race publications about his work (Burwell, 2001).
He promoted social work education and training of African Americans through public welfare institutes and support of the
Bishop Tuttle Memorial School of Social Work at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh. By the time that Oxley left North Carolina
in 1934 to join the U. S Department of Labor, he had helped organize citizens to employ the first corps of African American
social workers in various public agencies in more than 30 counties. He was retired from federal service in 1957. During
his later years he was an advocate for the elderly.
The Dean of the School of Social Work at Atlanta University, Forrester B. Washington (1930) identified African American
contemporaries of Oxley who directed bureaus of work with African American citizens in other states. They were William
Jennifer of Michigan, Maude B. Coleman of Pennsylvania, J. G. Robinson of West Virginia and J. A. Robinson of Tennessee.
Their groundbreaking work and contributions deserve further historical attention.