Francis Cecil Sumner, Ph.D.
(1895 - 1954)
Dr. Francis Cecil Sumner is considered “the father of Black American psychologists” as he was the first Black man in the United States to earn a doctorate in psychology. Dr. Sumner established and led the psychology department at Howard University. This new department was crucial to supporting the next generation of psychologists at this historically Black university.
Bayard Rustin was a political activist and prominent leader in the civil rights, nonviolence, and gay rights movements. In 1941, Rustin worked on the March on Washington movement to press for an end to racial discrimination in the military and defense employment. He later organized freedom rides and taught Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violent protest. On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Mamie Phipps Clark, Ph.D. & Kenneth Clark. Ph.D.
Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark & Dr. Kenneth Clark were psychologists and spouses who studied the self-image of Black children. Their research showed the impact of racism in education, including the famous doll experiment that found that Black children internalized the racism they experienced in segregated schools. As a result of this research, the Clarks were called to testify as expert witnesses in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.
E. Kitch Childs, Ph.D
(1937 - 1993)
Dr. E. Kitch Childs dedicated her career to breaking down barriers to mental health services for marginalized communities, including sex workers, LGBTQ+ people, and people living with HIV. She tried to normalize therapy sessions by hosting them in her living room. Her research centered on the experiences of Black women, introducing concepts like racism and tokenism to the literature of feminist psychology.
Joseph L. White, Ph.D.
(1932 - 2017)
Dr. Joseph L. White, also known as “the godfather of Black psychology,” helped make education more accessible and the field of psychology more inclusive. He wrote the 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 contributed to the Educational Opportunity Program, which provided educational opportunities to low-income and first-generation college students in California. Dr. White founded the Association of Black Psychologists and advocated for a culturally informed understanding of psychology.