Honoring Black History
Too often in U.S. history, the accomplishments of Black Americans have not been acknowledged. In honor of Black History Month, we would like to take this opportunity to recognize several Black psychologists whose historic contributions and influence on the field may have been overlooked.
Please help us to amplify the contributions of Black psychologists of the past in order to build a future based on equity, inclusion, and opportunity.
Albert Sidney Beckham, PhD: A student of Francis Sumner (see below), Dr. Beckham is known as the first African American to hold the title of school psychologist. He established the first psychological laboratory at Howard University in Washington, DC. He is also credited with starting the first psychological clinic in a public school at DuSable High School in Chicago.
Herman George Canady, PhD: Dr. Canady is most known for being the first psychologist to study how the race of a test proctor may create bias in IQ testing. He found that the rapport between examinee and examiner could have significant impact and provided suggestions to reduce bias.
Kenneth Bancroft Clark, PhD, and Mamie Phipps Clark, PhD: This husband-and-wife team are known for their famous “doll study,” which showed that Black children, when asked to choose a doll most like themselves, would disproportionately choose White dolls. Their research was used in Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954 to argue that racially separate schools were psychologically harmful and violated the 14th Amendment.
Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD: Dr. Prosser spent most of her short life focused on teaching and education. The first African American woman to receive her doctoral degree in psychology, her dissertation research focused on self-esteem and personality in matched pairs of Black students, where half attended segregated schools and the other half attended integrated schools. She found that Black students fared better in segregated schools. Her findings were controversial in the years leading to Brown v. Board of Education but were supported by people such as Carter Woodson and W.E.B. DuBois.
Francis Cecil Sumner, PhD: Dr. Sumner was the first African American to receive a PhD in psychology. His research focused on understanding racial bias and encouraging educational justice. He was one of the founders of the psychology department at Howard University, where he served as chair from 1928–1954.