top of page

A Walk Through Time, African Americans who have Pioneered our Understanding of Psychology

Inez Beverly Prosser (1891-1934)

Dr. Prosser was the first African-Americanwoman to receive her Ph.D. Her dissertation examined the academic development of African-American children in mixed and segregated schools. Her findings showed that African-American children fared better socially and academically in segregated schools. Specifically, she found that African-Americanchildren from integrated schools experienced more social maladjustment and felt less secure, a barrier to their learning. She spent the last seven years of her life teaching at historically Black colleges.

Francis Cecil Sumner (1895-1954)

Francis Sumner was First African-Americanto to receive his Ph.D. in Psychology. He helped establish the psychology department at Howard University to train African-American Psychologists. Sumner completed vast amounts of research which counteracted racism and bias in psychological studies of African-Americans. Some of his students went on to become leading psychologists in their own right. Kenneth Clark was one of those students.

Albert Sydney Beckham (1897-1964)

Mr. Beckham is regarded as the first African-American to hold the title of school psychologist for Juvenile Research and the Chicago Bureau of Child Study. He brought together ministers whose parishes included the families of students he worked with; his efforts paved the way for a church-neighborhood-school relationship in the community that benefited African-American youth.

Herman George Canady (1901-1970)

Mr. Canady was the first psychologist to examine the role of the race of the examiner as a bias factor in IQ testing. His master’s thesis discussed the role of race of the examiner in establishing testing rapport and provided suggestions for establishing an adequate testing environment in which African-Americanstudents could thrive. He was instrumental in founding the West Virginia Psychological Association, the West Virginia State Board of Psychological Examiners, and the Charleston Guidance Clinic.

Kenneth Bancroft Clark (1914-2005)

Mr. Clark’s work was essential in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. In the famous “Doll Study,” he studied the responses of more than 200 Black children who were given a choice of White or Brown dolls. His findings illustrated that children showed preference for White dolls from as early as three years old. He concluded segregation was psychologically damaging, which played a role in the Supreme Court decision to outlaw segregation. Additionally, he was the first Black president of the American Psychological Association.

The Clarks pictured together
The Clarks pictured together

Mamie Philip Clark (1917- 1983)

Ms. Clark’s work with children showed that African-Americanchildren became aware of their racial identity at about three years old. Many of these children began to see, reflect and internalize the views that society held about them. She also found that many African-Americanchildren who were tested and informed that they had learning disabilities were diagnosed incorrectly due to biased psychological testing.

Robert Lee Williams II (1930- 2020)

Mr. Williams was a founding member of the National Association of Black Psychologists and served as its second president. He created the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity by utilizing African-American vernacular and personal experience. This test showed that African-Americans weren’t intellectually inferior to European-Americans, but that the differences in speech and experiences could skew IQ results. Lastly, Mr. Williams created the term “Ebonics” to refer to African-Americanvernacular English.

Joseph L White (1932-2017)

Mr. White helped found the Association of Black Psychologists and established the first Black Studies Program during the 1968 strike at San Francisco State University. He wrote “Toward a Black Psychology” and argued that whatever the future of race relations and the destiny of Black people, the creation of a Black Psychology was necessary because psychology created by White people could not adequately define or describe African-Americans. He pointed out that the application of White psychology to African-Americans often led researchers to incorrectly conclude that African-Americans were lacking and “less than” European-Americans.

Kobi Kambon AKA Joseph A Baldwin (1943-Present)

Mr. Kambon served as the president of the Association of Black Psychologists from 1982-1983. He conducts research in the areas of African-Americanmental health and psychological outcomes of racial-cultural

oppression of African-Americans in American society. He developed several measures of African-centered worldviews and philosophies. His works examine how deviations from African-centered worldviews can have detrimental effects for African-Americans in the US.

Beverly Daniel Tatum (1954-Present)

Ms. Tatum is widely recognized as a race relations expert and leader in higher education. Her areas of research include racial identity development and the role of race in the classroom. Her book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” examines the development of racial identity. She argues racial identity is essential to the development of children.

103 views0 comments


bottom of page