Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
Racism within the field of psychology has long hindered its ability to reach those in need. Further, it has kept many pioneers in the field from receiving the recognition they deserve due to the color of their skin. In honor of Black History Month and the ongoing fight to dismantle racism within institutions such as psychology, let us take some time to honor Black and African American men and women who have contributed so much to psychology.
Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. (1872-1953)
Dr. Fuller was an African American psychiatrist who made ground-breaking discoveries regarding the physical changes the brain goes through when affected by Alzheimer’s. He spent the majority of his career at Westborough State Mental Hospital and devoted his work to furthering research on not only Alzheimer’s, but also schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder (MHA, 2020; Anderson, 2018).
Herman George Canady, Ph.D. (1901-1970)
Dr. Canady was a clinical and social psychologist best known for his pioneering work investigating the ways in which the race of an evaluator can bias the results of IQ testing. He also served as an expert witness for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in cases regarding discrimination and segregation. The work he did throughout his life helped decrease racism in psychology by better preparing universities to accept and train future Black/African American psychologists (APA, 2020).
Mamie Phillips Clark, Ph.D. (1917-1983)
Dr. Clark was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate from Columbia University. She performed the ground-breaking “Doll Test,” which revealed that even African American children preferred dolls with white skin over those with that were black. These findings were then used to bolster testimony in the Brown v. Board of Education case, which ultimately led to the decision that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. Throughout her studies, Dr. Clark also noticed the lack of psychological services available to minorities. Due to this, she went on to open her own agency to provide much needed services to poor and minority communities (MHA, 2020; Anderson, 2018).
Maxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr., M.D. (1932-2016)
Dr. Maultsby was the founder of the well-known psychological intervention called rational behavior therapy (RBT). His work made emotional self-help a focus of research and combined neuropsychology with emotional and behavioral self-control. Many studies have found this technique to be efficacious and that it produces long-term results. It continues to be taught in school and utilized by therapists to this day (MPA, 2020; Anderson, 2018).
Freda C. Lewis-Hall, M.D., DFAPA
Dr. Lewis-Hall strove to become a physician from an early age, as she was inspired by her uncle’s fight against polio and those who cared for him (Taylor, 2012). She has had a long and successful career in psychiatry and is currently Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Pfizer, a leader in research-based pharmaceutical development. She has been in a myriad of leadership roles, worked in academia, contributed to medical research, and worked in clinical settings. In 2010, she was asked to join the Board of Governors for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute by the Obama Administration. Dr. Lewis-Hall was also been named one of Savoy’s Top Influential Women in Corporate America, “Woman of the Year,” one of Black Enterprise Magazine’s 75 Most Powerful Women in Business, and one of Black Health Magazine’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in health care (MPA, 2020).
Jacki McKinney, M.S.W.
Ms. McKinney is a trauma survivor, has overcome addiction and homelessness, and experienced the psychiatric and criminal justice systems first-hand during her life. Due to her experiences, she became a family advocate and specialized in issues affecting African American women, seclusion and restraint, intergenerational family support, and problems faced by minorities seeking public health services. She has received many awards including those given to individuals who provide leadership and advocacy for trauma survivors and individuals who seek to decrease stigma against and improve conditions for those with addictions and mental illnesses (MPA, 2020).
Mental Health America (2020). African American Pioneers in Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.mhanational.org/african-american-pioneers-mental-health
Taylor, F. (2012). Drug executive defies race and gender. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2012/09/04/business/leading-women-freda-lewis-hall/index.html
Anderson, A. (2018). African American Pioneers in Mental Health You Need to Know. Social Justice Solutions. Retrieved from: http://www.socialjusticesolutions.org/2018/09/26/african-american-pioneers-mental-health-need-know/
American Psychological Association. (2020). George Canady, PhD: Featured Psychologist. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/psychologists/george-canady