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Ellen Black Winston, who held state and federal public welfare posts, was born on August 15, 1903, in Bryson City to Stanley and Marianna Fischer Black. (Her mother founded the public library in Bryson City which bears her name.) Miss Black graduated from Converse College in 1924 and completed M. A. (1928) and Ph.D. (1930) degrees in sociology at the University of Chicago.
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Initially a teacher and director of guidance for Raleigh high schools, Winston went on to serve as the editor of a series of publications on public relief for the Works Progress Administration. She coauthored three books, Seven Lean Years, The Plantation South, and Foundations of American Population Policy, and wrote hundreds of articles related to social welfare policy and legislation. In 1940 Winston was appointed head of the Department of Sociology and Economics at Meredith College while also working as a senior scientist with the Farm Security Administration, serving on a committee for the National Resources Planning Board, and consulting for the U. S. Office of Education.
Winston was named commissioner of the N. C. Board of Public Welfare in 1944. In that capacity she served on or advised numerous boards, commissions, and agencies, both state and national. The Welfare Administration, an extension of the Social Security Act, was established in 1963 in the new U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Winston was appointed the first head of the administration, directing several national public assistance programs.
Throughout her career Winston was an advocate for professional training for social workers, both black and white, and was a founding member of the National Association of Social Workers. Although she resigned from her federal post in 1967, she remained active in the social work community.
Ellen Black married Sanford Winston in 1928. They lived at 1712 Piccadilly Lane in Raleigh, where he was a sociology professor at North Carolina State College. They had no children. She died on June 19, 1984.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 244—sketch by William S. Powell
John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, ed., American National Biography, XXI, 653-654—sketch by Blanche D. Coll
(Raleigh) News and Observer, June 20, 1984 (obituary) and December 29, 1991
N. C. General Assembly Joint Resolution (1985) honoring Ellen Black Winston online at:
Ellen Black Winston Papers at North Carolina State University Special Collections: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/findingaids/mc00226
Oral history interview with Ellen Black Winston, UNC-Chapel Hill (1974), at Documenting the American
South website: http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/G-0064/menu.html
Ellen Black Winston (1960s) image courtesy of NCSU University Archives