APA President Connects Black History Month to Psychology

WASHINGTON — Following is the statement of Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, president of the American Psychological Association, to mark Black History Month:

“During Black History Month, I am particularly proud to celebrate some of the many African-American psychologists whose work has benefited all Americans."

“The research of Dr. Inez Prosser (our nation’s first black woman to earn a doctorate in psychology), along with the renowned doll studies by Drs. Mamie Phipps Clark and Kenneth Clark, were heavily factored into the momentous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. That ruling found school segregation unconstitutional and was a turning point for race relations in America. Dr. Kenneth Clark became the first African-American president of APA in 1966, and I am honored to follow in his footsteps as the second African-American and first African-American woman elected to serve as APA president."

“I also want also to pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Joseph White, known as the godfather of black psychology, who died in November. Dr. White’s long career blended scholarship and social activism. In the 1960s, he challenged APA’s lack of racial diversity and critiqued the discipline’s pathologized view of African-Americans. His stance, along with the activism of a small group of professional black psychologists and students during the 1968 APA convention, helped found the Association of Black Psychologists. In addition, his seminal 1970 article “Toward a Black Psychology” in Ebony Magazine, was instrumental in the rise of ethnic and cultural psychology. 

“To that point, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in an address at the 1967 APA convention, challenged us as social scientists to change a society “poisoned to its soul by racism.” That challenge remains as relevant to APA’s mission today as ever. Racism, discrimination and the systemic inequalities that they foster in our society must be confronted. We must look within our discipline and work to improve our recruitment, retention and promotion of underrepresented ethnic minorities. I am heartened by the fact that APA has many initiatives under way to address these issues.”

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.