PI Celebrates Black History Month

PI Celebrates Black History MonthDid you know that in September 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. took the podium at APA’s Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.? Were you aware that a husband and wife Black psychologist team provided key research that was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its historic 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional?

In February, the Public Interest Directorate honors the contribution of African-Americans to psychology and to the advancement of our nation. Prominent African-American psychologists, APA contributions to racial equality in this country and many more resources are highlighted below.


Featured Psychologists

Inez Prosser, PhD

America's first black female psychologist conducted important research on segregation, reaching controversial conclusions in the decades leading to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954. Her dissertation research examined self-esteem and personality variables in matched pairs of African-American middle-school children in segregated schools and helped highlight the need to improve educational systems that were already integrated. Though her life was cut tragically short, Prosser was also instrumental in assisting many black students in obtaining funds for college and for graduate study.

Mamie Phipps Clark, PhD, and Kenneth Clark, PhD

The Clarks were the first African-Americans to obtain doctoral degrees in psychology from Columbia University. Kenneth Clark was the first African-American to be president of the American Psychological Association. Mamie Clark's master's thesis, "The Development of Consciousness of Self in Negro Pre-school Children," centered on racial identity and self-esteem. This was also the foundation of the Clarks' famous doll studies.

Nelson Mandela and Self-actualization — the need to be good, to be fully alive and to find meaning in life

Public Interest words of wisdom from Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaIn December 2013, we lost a great man by the name of Nelson Mandela. He was the first black president of South Africa and a Nobel Prize recipient. He was treasured by many and affected millions of lives.

He was imprisoned for more than 27 years, and throughout his turmoil he was selfless and continued to think about the needs of others. His sustained drive to help others was amazing. The Public Interest Directorate wants to take a moment to reflect on some of his wisdom and insights:

  • "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
  • "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."
  • "Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."
  • "Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings."

Did you know?

APA continues to make contributions to racial equality today, improving human welfare and promoting social justice in major ways:


APA has highlighted studies on how children's perceptions of race affect their job hopes, how African American women leaders manage stress and succeed in different work settings, produced teaching videos for psychologists working with African-American clients, interviewed a psychologist notable for his research on “aversive racism” and promoted research to address issues such as limited access to mental health and behavioral health care.


APA's Minority Fellowship Program offers federally funded training programs for ethnic and racial minority practitioners and researchers, a Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs (CEMA) and the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs (OEMA) work to increase the scientific understanding of how psychology pertains to both race/ethnicity. APA also reviews books that deal with the psychological affects of racism.

APA's Public Interest Directorate also offers the following publications and resources: