To observe Black History Month, we are taking a trip back in time and highlighting Black pioneers that have contributed to the mental health field, as well as bringing to light the need to decolonize psychology and mental health care.

 

Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D.1872-1953 

Solomon Carter Fuller was a pioneering Black psychiatrist who made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease. He conducted ground-breaking research on physical changes in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. His discoveries continue to guide research today.

Inez Beverly Prosser, Ph.D. 1897-1934

  • One of the first Black women to receive a Ph.D. in psychology.
  • Her research, based in a segregated school, built a powerful argument of the effects that racial inequality has on the mental health of Black children.

Inez Prosser argued in favour for segregated schools, as she claimed black schools could provide a more understanding and nurturing environment for black students. Nowadays this could be a good argument for providing mental health care tailored specifically for the individual, accounting for their race, community, and cultural background.

Mamie Phipps Clark,  1917-1983, & Kenneth Bancroft Clark, Ph.D

  • Mamie Phipps Clark was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate degree in psychology from Columbia University.
  • Mamie and her husband provided invaluable psychological evidence in favour of ending school segregation.

Mamie and her husband Kenneth Clark are well-known for their doll study that explored African American children’s attitudes towards race. Their research found that children attending segregated schools preferred playing with white dolls over black dolls. The Clarks concluded that ‘prejudice, discrimination and segregation’ caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority. The tests concluded that segregation in schools affect children negatively, and the experiment was used as evidence in the court that challenged segregation in 1954.

Joseph L. White Ph.D. 1932-2017

  • White is sometimes referred to as ‘the father of Black psychology.’
  • He argued that applying white psychology to Black people can create an illusion of Black inferiority.

White argued that the psychology created by white people could never adequately apply to Black individuals, He therefore passionately advocated for the creation of Black psychology. He dedicated his time on supporting disadvantaged students of colour and developing the curriculum that caters to the needs of students of colour. White’s work has inspired the conversation around Black mental health.

Beverly Greene Ph.D. 1950-

  • A pioneer of intersectional psychology.
  • One of 16 women to have received the Distinguished Publications Award.
  • In 1991 Greene became the first African American tenured professor at St John’s University in Queens.

Greene’s research was based in lesbian, gay and bisexual psychology, and feminism. Her focus was on the complexities of identity. Her work on heterosexism, sexism, and racism illuminated how different intersecting identities shape a person’s experiences of privilege, oppression, and mental health. Greene’s Career has shown that people should not be marginalised based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Hope Landrine, Ph.D.1954-2019

  • Author of “The Politics of Madness” an exploration of the presence of existing societal inequities in the diagnosis and categorisation of psychiatric disorders.
  • Her work focused on combining social justice and healthcare.

Landrine’s research focussed on health disparities in ethnic minorities and women. She reported on how discriminations and poverty effected marginalised groups.  Landrine’s focus on ethnic minorities, specifically those living in segregated and poor neighbourhoods is an inspiration in psychology and in mental health services today.