In honor of this year’s national theme of health and wellbeing for Black History Month, we want to share the following Black American trailblazers in mental health article. This article comes directly from Mental Health America (https://www.mhanational.org/black-pioneers-mental-health
Black Americans’ contributions to the field of mental health have been long overlooked. Check out these trailblazers!
Bebe Moore Campbell
Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities. She founded NAMI-Inglewood in a predominantly Black neighborhood to create a space that was safe for Black people to talk about mental health concerns. Throughout her time as an advocate, Campbell made her way to DC. On June 2, 2008, Congress formally recognized Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the US.
Herman George Canady, Ph.D.
Herman George Canady was a prominent Black clinical and social psychologist. He is credited with being the first psychologist to study the influence of rapport between an IQ test proctor and the subject, specifically researching how the race of a test proctor can create bias in IQ testing. He also helped to provide an understanding of testing environments that were suitable to help Black students succeed.
E. Kitch Childs, Ph.D.
In 1969, E. Kitch Childs helped to found the Association for Women in Psychology. She was also a founding member of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Front. In addition to being a leader for women in psychology and the LGBTQ+ community, she also owned her own practice in which she provided therapy to LGBTQ+ folks, people living with HIV/AIDS, and other marginalized members of her community. She practiced feminist therapy, and centered her research and work around the experiences of Black women and feminist theory.
Mamie Phipps Clark, Ph.D. And Kenneth Bancroft Clark, Ph.D.
Mamie Phipps Clark was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate degree in psychology from Columbia University. She previously earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Howard University. Her experience in college and specifically graduate-level courses helped her realize the shortage of psychological services available to the African American community and other minorities. The Clarks are best known for the famous “Doll Study” in which more than 200 Black children participated. Both Mamie and Kenneth Clark worked on this study, providing invaluable evidence in favor of ending school segregation in the supreme court case Brown vs. The Board of Education, citing that school segregation was psychologically harmful to black children.
Dr. Kenneth Clark was the first-ever black president of the American Psychological Association.
Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark’s dedication and passion for adequate mental health services for all prompted Dr. Clark to open her own agency to provide comprehensive psychological services to the poor, blacks, and other minority children and families. In February 1946, Dr. Clark and her husband opened the doors of “The Northside Center for Child Development” for those in the Harlem area. She worked in the center counseling and providing other psychological services from 1946 until 1979 when she retired. Although retired, Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark served on different advisory boards and was still very active within her community.
James P. Comer, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Comer is the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut. He is known nationally and internationally for his creation of the Comer School Development Program in 1968 within Yale University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Comer’s has focused his career on improving school restructuring and has been featured in numerous newspaper, magazine and television reports, while also having several articles published in academic journals. He is a co-founder and past president of the Black Psychiatrists of America. Dr. Comer is the recipient of countless recognitions and holds over forty eight honorary degrees. In 2014, Dr. Comer received a prestigious nomination by President Barrack Obama to serve on the President’s Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
Paul Bertau Cornely, M.D., DrPH
Dr. Cornely was a founder of the National Student Health Association in 1939, president of the Physician’s Forum in 1954, and founder and first president of the District of Columbia Public Health Association in 1962. Dr. Cornely was also the first African-America elected as President of the American Public Health Association in 1968. Dr. Cornely’s professional work focused on the development of public health initiatives aimed at reducing healthcare disparities among the chronically underserved. He also made significant contributions in the civil right movements through his efforts to desegregate health facilities across the U.S. Additionally, Dr. Cornely conducted research studies in tuberculosis, venereal diseases and scarlet fever; utilization of physicians’ extenders and its effect on the cost and quality of health care; and the effects of social and cultural factors on health and health care utilization. He published over 100 scientific and popular articles. Dr. Cornely retired in 1973 as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Community Health and Family Practice of Howard University College of Medicine.
Jennifer Eberhardt, Ph.D.
Jennifer Eberhardt is an esteemed professor of psychology at Stanford University. She is an expert on the consequences of the psychological association between race and crime and has done extensive research on the topics of implicit bias, criminal justice, and the education system, and her work has provided the evidence needed to educate law enforcement officers in implicit bias training. In 2014, Dr. Eberhardt’s work earned her the famous MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship.
M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders was the first African American and the second woman to be sworn in as the Surgeon General of the United States. During her tenure as Surgeon General, Dr. Elders advocated for universal health coverage, comprehensive health education, including sex education in schools. Unfortunately, Dr. Elders only held the position of Surgeon General for 15 months as she was asked to resign. Nevertheless, this does not diminish her accomplishments including the fact that Dr. Elders was the first person in the state of Arkansas to become a board-certified pediatric endocrinologist, conducted an extensive amount of research on growth and diabetes in youth, as well as issues related to teen pregnancy and congenital abnormalities. Additional efforts by Dr. Elders included her extensive work to address minority health issues, particularly when she was appointed by then-Governor Clinton to head the Arkansas Department of Health where she focused her efforts on improving minority health, which led her to establish an internal Office of Minority Health within the Arkansas Department of Health. Currently, Dr. Elders is a professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D.
Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was a pioneering African American psychiatrist who made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease. He was born in Liberia, the son of a previously enslaved African who had purchased his freedom and emigrated there. He graduated from Boston University School of Medicine, which as a homeopathic institution, was open to both African American and women students. He spent most of his career practicing at Westborough State Mental Hospital in Westborough, Massachusetts. While there, he performed his ground-breaking research on the physical changes to the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Dr. Fuller was one of the first known Black psychiatrists and worked alongside Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first discovered the traits of Alzheimer’s disease in 1901.
Beverly Greene, Ph.D.
Beverly Greene is the author of the landmark article “When the Therapist is White and the Patient is Black: Considerations for Psychotherapy in the Feminist Heterosexual and Lesbian Communities.” She is a pioneer of intersectional psychology, and her work on heterosexism, sexism, and racism has illuminated how different intersecting facets of a person’s identity shape their experiences of privilege, oppression, and mental health. Dr. Greene’s work earned her the honor of the Distinguished Publication Award from the Association for Women in Psychology in 2008.
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