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Celebrating Black Pioneers Who Have Contributed to the Mental Health Field

We would like to take this opportunity to recognize African Americans and Black individuals who have contributed to the mental health field. Their work has been long overlooked and we want to bring awareness to their achievements, which have impacted this growing industry.

Joseph L. White, Ph.D. (Dec. 19, 1932 – Nov. 21, 2017)

Dr. Joseph L. White, often referred to as “the father of Black psychology,” wrote the revolutionary article called, “Toward a Black Psychology,” which was featured in Ebony magazine. He is credited for his work for being the first strengths-based analysis and evaluation of Black behavior and culture. Dr. White advocated for the creation of Black psychology, arguing that the application of white psychology on African American people developed an unfair illusion of Black inferiority. He was passionate about exposing the culturally irrelevant psychological principles being applied to Black Americans and African Americans in the mental health field. Dr. White helped found the Association of Black Psychologists and San Francisco State University’s Black Studies program in 1968.

Inez Beverly Prosser, Ph.D. (Dec. 30, 1897 – Sept. 1934)

Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser is the first Black woman to earn a doctorate in psychology. In her youth, there were few educational opportunities for African Americans and Black individuals. Dr. Prosser started an educational fund to help her siblings attend and complete high school and college, along with herself. Despite facing the obstacles of racism and sexism, her academic achievements were quite impressive. She evaluated the effects of racism and inequality on the development of African American and Black American children’s identity and mental health in her dissertation, “The Non-Academic Development of Negro Children in Mixed and Segregated Schools.” Dr. Prosser’s research and arguments led some of the first discussions about desegregating American schools.

Maxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr., M.D. (Apr. 24,1932 – Aug. 28, 2016)

Dr. Maxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr. founded the psychotherapeutic method for rational behavioral therapy. His work explored emotional and behavioral self-management, which legitimized emotional self-help for scientific and clinical use. Dr. Maultsby developed a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and counseling system that incorporated neuropsychological facts about the inner-workings of the brain in relation to emotional and behavioral self-control. He authored several books for professional therapists and counselors and wrote four books describing his methods for emotional self-help, also known as rational self-counseling.

Herman George Canady, Ph. D. (Oct. 9, 1901 – Dec. 1, 1970)

Dr. Herman George Canady was a prominent clinical and social psychologist, credited with being the first psychologist to study the influence of rapport between an IQ proctor and the test subject. His research specifically targeted the bias in IQ testing compared to the race of the proctor. He began his education with the hope of becoming a minister, however, after graduating in 1927, he continued his behavioral science studies at Northwestern University, where he earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Dr. Canady’s studies provided insights about the testing environments suitable to help Black and African American students succeed.

Beverly Greene, Ph.D. (1950 – Present)

Dr. Beverly Greene is the author of the article, “When the Therapist is White, and the Patient is Black: Considerations for Psychotherapy in the Feminist Heterosexual and Lesbian Communities.” Dr. Greene is a pioneer in what is called intersectional psychology. Her work in heterosexism, sexism, and racism has brought light to the understanding of how a person’s identity shapes experiences of privilege, oppression, and mental health. In 2008, Dr. Greene received the Distinguished Publication Award from the Association of Women in Psychology.

Hope Landrine, Ph.D. (Jul. 4, 1954 – Sept. 3, 2019)

Dr. Hope Landrine was a renowned expert in health psychology and public health. She published “The Politics of Madness” in 1992, presenting her research on the existence of societal inequities of diagnoses and categorizations of psychiatric disorders. Her data was some of the first to show that stereotypes toward women, people living in poverty, and racial and ethnic minorities affected psychiatric diagnoses and maintained the inequities already prevalent throughout society. Dr. Landrine often applied a public health lens to psychology and psychiatry, arguing that the decontextualization of individuals is insufficient for understanding a person’s overall health.

Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. (Aug. 11, 1872 – Jan. 16, 1953)

Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was an African American psychiatrist and pioneer who made significant strides and contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease. A graduate of Boston University School of Medicine, he spent most of his career practicing at Westborough State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts. Dr. Fuller faced discrimination in the medical field in the form of unequal salaries and underemployment, and his duties often involved performing autopsies. This was how he performed ground-breaking research while studying the physical changes of the brain due to Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Fuller worked closely with Dr. Alois Alzheimer to discover the first traits of Alzheimer’s disease in 1901.

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