Multicultural education expert Jack Arnett Kirkland was born on October 28, 1931, in the coal mining town of Blythedale, Pennsylvania, to Anna Mae Kirkland and Aaron Kirkland. Kirkland attended Syracuse University, where he was a member of the Phi Delta Kappa Honor Society, and received his B.A. degree in international relations in 1959. Two years later, Kirkland received his M.S. degree in social services from Syracuse University.
In 1964, Kirkland became chair of St. Louis University’s Social Group Work Program, a position he would serve in for six years. During this time, Kirkland directed the Peace Corps training in Latin America for community development from 1964 until 1967. In 1970, Kirkland became an associate professor at Washington University at St. Louis’ George Warren Brown School of Social Work. Kirkland taught classes in the rehabilitation of depressed communities and, while on sabbatical, served as the Jeff-Vander-Lou Development Corporation’s director of economic development, working on the development of the depressed Jeff-Vander-Lou section of St. Louis.
Kirkland co-founded the Black Studies Department (now African American Studies) at Washington University in 1974, becoming chair of the department that same year. He left in 1976, becoming Missouri’s director of transportation as a member of the governor’s cabinet, where he would remain for two years. Shortly thereafter, Kirkland was invited to the White House by President Jimmy Carter and also made a trip to visit with Vice President Mondale at the Blair House.
Returning from public service in 1980, Kirkland chaired the Economic Development Concentration at Washington University’s School of Social Work, and would work within this department for the rest of the decade. In 1988, Kirkland received a Most Outstanding Teacher Award for the college’s School of Social Work, and in 1990, was featured in the St. Louis Sun’s Great Teachers Series. Kirkland joined the National Association of Child Care Workers’ meeting in Capetown, South Africa, in 1995, meeting with Desmond Tutu and speaking publicly in both Port Elizabeth and Mmabatho, South Africa.
Kirkland continues to consult on issues of racial, ethnic, and cultural sensitivity for a variety of school districts nationwide, as well as for corporations throughout the Midwest. Kirkland has also testified as an expert witness for five Congressional Committees and has acted as advisor for the Native Americans of the Southwest Division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Kirkland is married to Iris McWherter Kirkland, and they have three children, Jack, Jr., Adrianne, and Kelly.
Jack Kirkland was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 15, 2007.