DR. ARNITA YOUNG BOSWELL was born April 19, 1920 in Detroit, Michigan. She was an African-American activist and educator. She, her sister Eleanor, and her brother Whitney were raised in Lincoln Ridge, KY, where her vocation for community service was nurtured, along with that of her brother’s and sister’s. Coming from a strong family environment, there was a history of being engaged in the (civil rights) struggle and being involved in the educational advancement of African-Americans. Her father, Whitney M. Young, Sr., was President of the Lincoln Institute. Her mother, Laura Ray Young, was the first African-American postmaster in Kentucky and the second in the United States. Her brother, Whitney, became National Urban League’s President and pioneered the movement for equality for African-Americans in the armed forces.
Boswell earned a Bachelor’s degree in home economics from Kentucky State University in the mid-1940s and a Master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University in the late 1940s. She received an honorary Doctoral degree in social work from the University of Colorado, in Boulder. In 1953, she married dermatologist, Dr. Paul Boswell, who died in 1982.
Most of her professional life was dedicated to teaching and social services. She was a professor of social work at the University of Chicago from 1961 to 1980. In the summer of 1966, she directed the women’s division of a large civil rights demonstration led by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Chicago, for which she was cited. In 1974, she, along with a small group of women, found the National Hook-Up of Black Women during the fourth Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend. After that, she served as Director of Social Services for families with children with special needs at the University of Illinois Chicago. In the mid-1980s, Boswell served as Director of the Family Resources Center at the Robert Taylor Homes; she was the first National Director for Project Head Start and for the social workers of the Chicago Public Schools.
Besides being a founder of the National Hook-Up of Black Women, Boswell was also the founder of the League of Black Women and the Women’s Board of the Chicago Urban League. Boswell died on July 6, 2002 at a hospital in Los Angeles. She was 82.