Commission on Human Rights
Announcing the 46th Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians member
LOUISVILLE – The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights has selected the late Louisvillian Morris F. X. Jeff, Jr., DSW, as the 46th member of the Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians, the educational poster and bookmark series used by schools and libraries.
Executive Director John J. Johnson will unveil the poster tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. during the annual conference of the National Association of Black Social Workers at the downtown Louisville Marriott Hotel located at the corner of Third and Jefferson streets.
“Doctor Jeff had important and paradigm-shifting insights into the life and plight of the African American,” said Johnson. “His guidance and his regard for children and the family improved the lives of many people, and he serves as a great role model for young, black men and women.”
Jeff was a social worker, therapist, advocate, trainer, activist and consultant who spoke with clarity on urban problems and solutions using an African philosophical approach. He was a licensed clinician and a widely respected expert on a number of subjects including trans-racial adoption, black-on-black violence, welfare reform, reparation, manhood development, cultural diversity, the middle passage, rites of passage programs, Kemetic (Egyptian) culture and African spirituality.
He was a native of New Orleans, La., who moved to Louisville, Ky., in 1965, after serving as a caseworker with the Children’s Division of the Cook County Department of Public Aid in Chicago, Ill. He received a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University in New Orleans, a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta) in Atlanta, Ga., and a Ph.D. in social work from Tulane University in New Orleans.
Like his father Morris Sr., he dedicated his life to fighting the battles of those who needed it most, African American children. He championed the many unpopular issues within society while challenging those around him to join in those struggles.
After his arrival in Louisville, Jeff first served as project director at the Presbyterian Community Center. In 1966, he accepted the directorship of the Plymouth Settlement House and served in that position until 1972. The Plymouth Settlement House at 1626 West Chestnut Street was started in 1917 to serve the African American population of Louisville’s west end.
Jeff was most proud of the work he accomplished at the Plymouth Settlement House. He once said, “In the years since I have been here, Plymouth Settlement House has become seen as an agency that is competent and committed to the needs of serving black people; we are the only settlement house established by black people for black people.”
The clinician believed in preserving and advancing African American families. He appeared on the NBC Today Show, ABC Night Line, CBS Night Watch and the Oprah Winfrey Show as an opponent to trans-racial adoptions. He asserted that black people can and must care for black children.
In 1981, he developed the Harambee Closing Ceremony to honor African culture to be held as part of the National Association of Black Social Workers annual conferences. Harambee is a Kiswahili word that translates as “pulling together” or “we all pull together.” The ceremony has since been renamed the Dr. Morris F. X. Jeff, Jr. Harambee Ceremony to honor his legacy and immeasurable contributions to the National Association of Black Social Workers, and to the brothers and sisters throughout the African Diaspora.
The Kentucky Human Rights Commission introduced the Gallery in 1970, to recognize the achievements of African Americans neglected in traditional histories of the state and to introduce Kentucky African American history into classrooms. The series helps the commission in its task to raise awareness of human and civil rights in the commonwealth. Educators and libraries use the colorful, biographical-style pieces as teaching tools. Free posters are available to the public. The gallery is online at www.kchr.ky.gov.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is the state government agency that enforces the laws prohibiting discrimination.