Barbara J. Solomon

Leader in social work practice, research and education

A gifted leader, scholar and social worker, Professor Emerita Barbara J. Solomon was born and raised in Houston. In 1950, at the young age of 15, Solomon entered Howard University in Washington, D.C., and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in psychology four years later. She earned her MSW from the University of California, Berkeley in 1956–only a few months after Rosa Park’s arrest in Montgomery, Alabama. Solomon later had the honor to hood Parks when she received an honorary doctorate degree at the University of Southern California. Solomon earned her DSW from the USC School of Social Work in 1966 and joined the school’s faculty as an assistant in 1966. She became a full professor in 1977.

Solomon was named vice provost for graduate and professional studies and dean of the Graduate School in 1988. She was the first African-American dean at the university. In 1994, she was appointed vice provost for faculty and minority affairs, a position she held until her retirement in 1998. She also held the David Lawrence Stein/Violet Goldberg Sachs Professorship of Social Work.

Gifted author of innovative texts, Solomon published several volumes including Mental Health Service in Inner City Churches, which deals heavily with the delivery of social and mental health services to underrepresented populations. Her landmark and extraordinarily influential text, Black Empowerment: Social Work in Oppressed Communities (1976), introduced the concept of empowerment as a framework for social work practice.

Before joining USC’s faculty, Solomon was a state adoptions worker and a clinical social worker at Veterans Administration hospitals. She has been a guest lecturer or visiting scholar at multiple universities in the United States and, as a visiting examiner, evaluated the curriculum of the Department of Social Work at Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Solomon is the recipient of many honors, including the Faculty Who Make a Difference award from the American Association of Higher Education (1988); the Social Work Educator of the Year Award from the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (1977); a USC Associates Award for Teaching Excellence (1979) and a Distinguished Faculty Award from the School of Social Work support group Los Amigos de la Humanidad (1977). She was named Woman of the Year in 1986 by the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper. Solomon’s achievements have earned her USC’s highest honor ” the Presidential Medallion ” as well as the Rosa Parks Award from the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

« Back to list.