10 Black Pioneers in the Mental Health Field

Throughout Black History Month, our nation honors African Americans who have made great contributions to our country.

Healthy Minds Therapy would like to take the opportunity to highlight Black pioneers in the mental health field who have made significant contributions to the treatment of mental illness and addiction this month.

10 Black Mental Health Professionals 

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.

Dr. Kenneth Clark was the first-ever black president of the American Psychological Association.

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.

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.

Linda James Myers, Ph.D. 

Dr. Myers specializes in psychology and culture; moral and spiritual identity development; healing practices and psychotherapeutic processes; and intersections of race, gender, and class.
Dr. James Myers’ Oneness model of human functioning offers a trans-disciplinary focus that builds on insights from the wisdom tradition of African deep thought and converges with modern physics and Eastern philosophies.

Francic Cecil Sumner, Ph.D. 

Francis Cecil Sumner is another person who gets called “the Father of Black Psychology,” because he was the first Black man to earn his Ph.D. in psychology.

Dr. Sumner was accepted into Clark University’s doctoral psychology program but was then drafted to serve in WWI. Upon his return, he re-enrolled and his dissertation was accepted. Dr. Sumner struggled to get his research published because of the color of his skin. He persisted nonetheless and was able to publish several articles.

He is also one of the founding members of the Howard University Psychology Department.

E. Kitch Childs, Ph.D.

E. Kitch Childs, Ph.D. was a prominent clinical psychologist and advocate of gay and lesbian human rights legislation since 1973. She was a feminist, lesbian activist, and founding member of the Association for Women in Psychology. Dr. Childs worked to revise the American Psychological Association’s attitude toward homosexuality.

She was a founding member of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Front. Childs 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.

James P. comer, M.D., M.P.H.

James P. Comer is nationally and internationally known for his creation of the Comer School Development Program in 1968. This is an educational system that focused on child development in inner-city schools.

In 2014, Dr. Comer received a prestigious nomination by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

Harriette Pipes McAdoo, Ph.D.

Dr. McAdoo worked with her husband, researcher John Lewis McAdoo, on the Family Life Project which studied Black families in the Washington, DC area with a focus on the middle-class. 

Harriette McAdoo’s work on the Family Life Project earned her a spot in the White House Conference on Families, appointed by President Jimmy Carter.

Her research was some of the first work that challenged the widely-held and harmful racial stereotypes about Black families.

Robert Lee Williams II

Robert Lee Williams, II was the creator of the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity. This was an intelligence test specifically oriented towards Black experiences, language, and culture. The data collected from this test helped to shatter the notion that Black people had lower average intelligence than white people and showed, rather, that differences in previous IQ data were likely the result of speech and experiential differences skewing IQ test results in favor of white people.

Williams worked as a staff psychologist at Arkansas State Hospital, the first African-American psychologist to be hired at a state mental health facility in Arkansas. He later served as chief psychologist, at the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Affairs Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, and a consultant for the National Institute of Mental Health.

Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D. 

Dr. Tatum is the author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria And Other Conversations About Race,  which is one of many works focusing on racism and its effect on the American education system.
Her tireless efforts in psychology, on social issues, and the education system, earned her the American Psychological Association Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution in 2014.

Joseph L. White, Ph. D. 

Joseph L. White is sometimes referred to as “the father of Black psychology.” He wrote the groundbreaking article “Toward a Black Psychology,” which is credited as being the first-ever strengths-based (rather than deficit-based) evaluation and description of Black behavior and culture. He passionately advocated for the creation of Black psychology and argued that applying white psychology to Black people often unfairly created the illusion of Black inferiority. He also helped found the Association of Black Psychologists as well as the Black Studies program at San Francisco State University in 1968.
We thank you for the lasting contributions that have been made in the mental health field. For forging new processes and breaking down barriers.
Article Resource:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.