Category: Education

Presentation Description

Psychology is the study of human motivation, how human beings perceive themselves and others, how human beings behave, and how human beings change. This lecture presents a general psychological history and issues in the context of the African American culture. Since African American culture is not monolithic the lecture covers diverse perspectives on how African American psychology relates to the Black Experience in America.


Presentation Transcript



The Beginning…:

The Beginning… In the early 1500s, black slaves were brought to the New World when Spanish colonists from the West Indies attempted to establish sugarcane plantations on the southeastern coast of North America. In 1619, a Dutch man in Jamestown, Virginia had sold twenty ‘ negars’ as servants to English colonists, thereby marking the beginning of the struggle of black people for existence in the New World. When the cotton gin was perfected, the demand for black slaves in the South increased. What had been a small group of twenty African servants in Virginia grew to a magnitude of over four million throughout North America.

The Beginning…:

The Beginning… As the black population increased, so did the number of slave revolts. Such revolts consisted of Denmark Vesey’s insurrection in South Carolina in 1822 and Nat Turner’s revolt in Virginia in 1831. Both individuals were intelligent and sharpened their skills through “sabbath schools” and Bible study. Because leadership in these specific insurrections was traced to persons who could read and write, harsh laws forbidding the instruction of blacks in reading, writing, and arithmetic were passed as defensive measures throughout the South.

PowerPoint Presentation:

Such laws were commonly called the black codes . These codes declared that black people were not to be regarded as persons but as property. Any white person convicted of teaching blacks faced heavy fines and imprisonment while the slave faced cruel punishments. The restriction of educational pursuits in the nineteenth century caused slaves to regard reading and writing as forbidden fruit, and in many instances they stole away to secret places at night to study under the direction of friends.

PowerPoint Presentation:

In the North, a few freedmen did manage to obtain limited schooling, frequently while facing the possibility of physical harm. Freedmen, a man who has been freed from slavery. In a number of instances, prejudice against freedmen trying to secure an education led to acts of violence on the part of “loyal white citizens.” Historical accounts reveal cases in which black children were stoned on their way to and from school and their teachers publicly whipped. In a few cases, freedmen sailed to England and Scotland to become college educated while some attended liberal American institutions.

PowerPoint Presentation:

In 1862, John Brown Russworm at Bowdin College (Mass.), Edward Jones at Amherst College (Mass.) and Mary Jane Patterson at Oberlin became the first blacks in the U.S. to receive college degrees.

The Birth of Black Colleges:

The Birth of Black Colleges In 1854, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania became the first American institution for blacks to obtain higher degrees. In 1866, Missouri became the first state to establish a separate public college for blacks. By 1940, more than one hundred black colleges and universities were located in seventeen southern states, enrolling most of their students from the South’s segregated public school system.

PowerPoint Presentation:

Often located in the same vicinity as a large, all-white college, the small black college struggled to provide an environment of instruction and inspiration. It was clear that the black schools, with their limited facilities, understaffing, and inadequate funding, were never intended to be on a scale with the white institutions. Teachers were also underpaid a great deal. In spite of these circumstances, the black colleges became inspiring grounds for black professionals and scholars for decades to come.

Psychology Courses in Black Colleges:

Psychology Courses in Black Colleges Very little attention was paid to the teaching of science; Latin, Greek, geometry, logic, and philosophy already stereotyped in white colleges of the South, became the curriculum of the Negro colleges. The German influence in American psychology was virtually ignored in the black schools. While white institutions emphasized psychology as a laboratory science and made strenuous efforts for it to emulate the “hard” sciences, black institutions were forced to narrow the discipline to a practical and applied sphere.

PowerPoint Presentation:

As late as 1940, only four black schools offered psychology as an undergraduate major, a situation that limited the opportunities for blacks to earn a degree in the subject. West Virginia State College initiated a number of interesting investigations during the 1930-1940 period. Among these were a series of studies designed to survey the “status of curricula offerings and aspects of curriculum in colleges for Negroes.”

PowerPoint Presentation:

The first of these studies was Psychology in Negro Institutions , in which Herman G. Canady, set out to obtain information concerning: the status of psychology in the curriculum, the nature of the introductory course in psychology, undergraduate courses in psychology, provisions for laboratory work, library equipment, teaching personnel, and research in psychology in America’s black colleges.

PowerPoint Presentation:

Canady’s data was taken from questionnaires sent out to fifty black colleges. The colleges surveyed by Canady emphasized basic and applied courses in psychology. These courses were usually one semester in duration and were taught by the lecture-discussion method. It appears that Canady had called for the first black psychology course in the early 1930s.

Library and Research Facilities in Black Colleges:

Library and Research Facilities in Black Colleges The construction of physical plants and provisions for general library holdings were frequently made possible through donations by Northern philanthropists. Notable in these efforts was Julius Rosenwald. He provided funds to assist in the construction of buildings at black schools. The Rosenwald funds were devoted to the construction of total physical plants, and these efforts drew attention to and greatly stimulated the development of libraries at many colleges.

PowerPoint Presentation:

The Carnegie Corporation gave out funds specifically for the development of libraries and library service in a number of these schools. A total of twenty-six different psychology periodicals were subscribed to by the libraries at the black schools. --The most popular journals were: American Journal of Psychology, Journal of Social Psychology, Journal of Educational Psychology, and Mental Hygiene. --The least popular journals were: Journal of Comparative Psychology, Journal of Genetic Psychology, and the Psychological Bulletin.

PowerPoint Presentation:

Only eight psychology professors (three of whom were white) out of a total of eighty-eight in the black colleges reported having published research during the period of 1931-1936. The heavy commitment to teaching responsibilities and the lack of graduate training contributed to this situation.

Employment Opportunities in Psychology :

Employment Opportunities in Psychology The limited number of black role-models in psychology and a lack of encouragement from the employment field presented a persistent problem in the recruitment of students for careers in psychology. College catalogs frequently described employment possibilities but the practice was inadequate in providing answers to questions of whether job opportunities for black graduates existed and what specific areas of psychology offered the best chances for jobs.

PowerPoint Presentation:

In 1939, Lily Brunschwig wanted to gain information about employment opportunities. She dispatched a questionnaire to black psychologists and other blacks trained in the field of psychology. She asked, “What vocational opportunities are or will be available for Negro students wishing to prepare for psychology as a career?” Of the total number in Brunschwig study, only seven were engaged in activities such as research, clinical work, and school psychology. Also, the study did note that a substantial representation of black women had employment in the profession of psychology at that time.

PowerPoint Presentation:

All-in-all, the immediate employment picture was dismal, but prospects for the future expressed by many of the professionals were encouraging, leading Brunschwig to conclude that “vocational opportunities for Negro psychologists will increase in spite of the period of social change and uncertainty.”

Howard University :

Howard University Howard University was the leading black school providing graduate and undergraduate training in psychology. Between 1919 and 1938, twenty students enrolled in graduate studies in psychology at Howard. The uniqueness and strength of Howard’s program in psychology must be attributed to the leadership of Francis C. Sumner. Sumner had just left a successful chairmanship of West Virginia State College’s psychology department, placed an immediate priority on building a strong program in psychology at Howard.

PowerPoint Presentation:

In order to give students a firm foundation in the field, a department of psychology with a strong experimental orientation was established. In 1972, a man by the name of Max Meenes joined forces with Sumner’s program for Howard psychology majors. He help outline the introductory course sequencing during the 1930s: --The first quarter was psychology according to Titchener and his book. The second quarter was psychology taught from the point of view of behaviorism. The third quarter was based on dynamic psychology that came from McDougall and Freud.

PowerPoint Presentation:

Howard’s graduate courses in psychology were equally outstanding for that time and were specifically designed to enable graduates to succeed in pursuing their doctorates at the large white universities. Although Howard’s program was very successful, Meenes described the apprehensions of students who were competing in a society that was more often unreceptive to black graduate students. In 1943, the annual award of a Gold Key was established for the Howard University senior completing a major in psychology with exceptional distinction.

PowerPoint Presentation:

The first recipient of the award was Mrs. Mauvice Winslow Brett of the Class of 1944. Not only was Howard University producing outstanding scholars in psychology, but the popularity of the department. During the year 1946-47 the enrollment at the graduate and undergraduate levels was the highest in the history of the psychology department. It was clear that Howard’s psychology department was the leading institution for the training of black psychologists in this country.

Black Psychologists Organize:

Black Psychologists Organize In 1938, Herman Canady of West Virginia State College led a vigorous effort to organize black professionals in psychology. The effort was made in conjunction with the 1938 American Teachers Association (ATA) annual convention, held at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The ATA membership included most of the black psychologists of this period, and annual meetings of the ATA often saw these psychologists discussing common interest and concerns.

PowerPoint Presentation:

Herman Canady attempted to organize black psychologists. He did so by reaching out to members of the ATA with an application titled “A Prospectus of an Organization of Negroes Interested in Psychology and Related Fields. Enthusiasm was evident and it was unanimously voted to organize the group! The Department of Psychology of the ATA was then established.

Charles Henry Thompson:

Charles Henry Thompson Enrolled in Virginia Union University Doubled in his course enrollments and graduated in 1917 with a B.A. degree Was a army cadet Enrolled in at the University of Chicago completing second undergraduate degree (education & psychology) Drafted into the army and remained in the army for 19 months Went back to University of Chicago to get master’s in 1920 and his Ph.D. in 1925. First Black American to receive a doctor’s degree in educational psychology.

Albert Sidney Beckham:

Albert Sidney Beckham Attended Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University Graduated with B.A. in 1915 Enrolled in Ohio State University earning a second bachelors degree in 1916 At the age of 20 was awarded a M.A. degree in Psychology. From 1917-1918 was a war professor in psychology at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Founded the psychological laboratory at Howard Fellow of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene at the Illinois Institute for Juvenile Research from 1929-1930.

Robert Prentiss Daniel:

Robert Prentiss Daniel Graduated from Virginia Union University with a B.A. degree in 1924 Received a master’s degree in education in 1928 and his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Columbia University in 1932.1923-1925 instructed mathematics at Virginia Union University Member of the American Psychological Association, National Association for the study of Negro Life, American Association of School Administrators, American teachers Association, and National Education Association. Author of “A Psychological Study of Delinquent Negro Boys”

Inez Beverly Prosser:

Inez Beverly Prosser Attended Prairie View Normal College for teacher training. Attended Samuel Houston College were she received a B.A. degree “with distinction” in education. Attended the University of Colorado and earned a master’s degree in educational psychology Accepted a teaching position and administrative duties at Tougaloo College in Mississippi 1933 she earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology and was the first Black American woman to receive this degree.

Howard Hale Long:

Howard Hale Long Received his B.S. degree and the Bachelor’s diploma in Education from Howard University in 1915 Studied experimental psychology under G Stanley Hall at Clark University Awarded a master’s degree in 1916 Was a psychology instructor at Howard University Became Dean at Paine College in Georgia Appointed Dean of the School of Education at Knoxville College

Ruth Winifred Howard :

Ruth Winifred Howard Became first Black woman in the United States to receive a highest academic degree in psychology when she was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Minnesota in 1934. Studied at Columbia University’s Teachers College and School Work in 1929-1930 Studied at University if Minnesota from 1930-1934 Collaborated in research in areas of child development at the university institute for Child Development She married psychologist Albert S. Beckham

Oran Wendle Eagleson:

Oran Wendle Eagleson Worked for his Ph.D degree at Indiana University in 1935 At Indiana also earned his B.A.(1931) and M.A. (1932) Taught courses at North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham Initiated the first psychological laboratory in any of the institutions of the Atlanta University center.

Kenneth Bancroft Clark:

Kenneth Bancroft Clark Enrolled in Howard University in 1929 Received his B.S. degree in psychology from Howard University and following year was awarded the M.S. degree Enrolled in Columbia University where he was a research assistant for the comprehensive study of Gunnar Myrdal Awarded his Ph.D degree in kpsychology in 1940 The U.S. Supreme Court cited Dr. Clark’s work on the Harmful effects of segrgation in its 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education Dr. Clark was president of the American psychological Association (first Black to hold that Office)

Even the Rat Was White: Psychology and Racial Differences:

Even the Rat Was White: Psychology and Racial Differences

Suspicious Statistical Findings:

Suspicious Statistical Findings In the 19 th century, it was a growing trend for the “elite” class to combine philosophic ideas with falsely fabricated statistics. They were successful because the majority of society either felt indifferent to the information presented to them, or they simply did not understand it. British elite and leisure class Philosophers Self proclaimed scientists

Suspicious Statistical Findings:

Suspicious Statistical Findings Craniologists attempted to prove that African Americans were inferior and did not possess “the cranial capacity to house sufficient cerebral matter necessary for higher intellectual thought and reasoning” (Bean 90) Robert Bean, noted craniologist, allowed his bias towards Blacks to influence his statistical findings.

Suspicious Statistical Findings:

Suspicious Statistical Findings Bean composed statistics falsely claiming that Europeans had larger craniums, and as a result, were more intelligent than Blacks. Leary of Bean’s statistical accuracy, Franklin Mall revealed that Bean had “unequivocally massaged his measurements in favor of European skulls.” In other words, Mall proved that Bean lied to prove his own theory.

Suspicious Statistical Findings:

Suspicious Statistical Findings In response to all of the pseudoscience being published, inventor and philosopher Charles Babbage (1830) published Reflections on the Decline of Science in England. He coined the following terms: Trimming - “ clipping off little bits here and there from observations which differ most in excess from the mean and sticking them on those which are too small.” Cooking- “ an art of various forms the object of which is to give ordinary observations the appearance and character of those of the highest degree of accuracy.”

IQ Testing:

IQ Testing By the mid-twentieth century, IQ tests involving identical twins became the new trend. Sir Cyril Burt, father of British educational psychology, was one of the forefathers of this movement. Burt wanted to prove that intelligence was directly correlated with heredity. Burt used twins separated at birth to measure intelligence levels and compare them.

IQ Testing:

IQ Testing Criticism One factor that Burt and his colleagues failed to consider was that the twins, although separated at birth, grew up in very similar environments. Even if Burt’s theory may have been true in some instances, it is virtually impossible to compare identical twins to the rest of the population. It was also proven by Princeton psychologist Leon Kamin, University of Hull psychologists Ann Clarke and Michael McCaskie that Burt made up most of his statistics. Burt worked from his conclusion backwards.

White Rats and Mazes:

White Rats and Mazes Twentieth century intellectuals began to believe that animals and plants could be compared to humans. From this belief stemmed experiments on Albino rats bred to be either “maze bright” or “maze dull” by Robert Choate Tryon, an associate professor at UC Berkeley. In his findings, Tryon proved that some rats exhibited “proof of inheritance of individual difference in maze ability” (93). In other words, Tryon found that some rats from the “maze bright” category really were more capable of navigating the mazes, and vice versa. Criticism LV Searle proved Tryon’s theory incorrect when he found that not all bright rats were capable of running the maze correctly, and similarly some dull rats were able to successfully complete the maze.

Psychology and Eugenics:

Psychology and Eugenics Eugenics- “the study of the agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally” (94). Francis Galton , cousin of Charles Darwin was the founder of this movement (1883). In 1869, Galton wrote Hereditary Genius: Its Laws and Consequences in which he proposed law enforced marriages for perfect breeding. 1908 Galton established the Eugenics Society of Great Britain, and the following year published the Eugenics Review to keep the lines of communication open for eugenicists around the world.


Eugenics “Eugenics is the self direction of human evolution” “Like a tree Eugenics draws its materials from many sources and organizes them into an harmonious entity ”

Eugenics in the U.S.:

Eugenics in the U.S. Henry Laughlin established the American Eugenic Society in 1905

Carnegie Institution for Experimental Evolution:

Carnegie Institution for Experimental Evolution In 1904, Andrew Carnegie, steel magnate, established the Carnegie Institution for Experimental Evolution. He placed Charles Davenport in charge. Mendel’s Law became popular once again, as it was believed that “like produces like.” Except they believed that superior produced superior, inferior produced inferior, and criminals produced criminals. The 10 purposes of the Eugenics Record Office Codes used for classification

Carnegie Institution for Experimental Evolution:

Carnegie Institution for Experimental Evolution The Record Office published The Trait Book to keep record for eugenic “field workers” Davenport and Laughlin taught 2 month long classes designed to “provide laboratory and clinical studies in human heredity and instruction in making firsthand pedigree studies.” Between 1910 and 1918 nearly 200 people were trained in these courses. Among the top institutions teaching eugenics were Harvard, Cornell, Brown, Wisconsin, Columbia, and Northwestern.

Eugenics and Euthenics:

Eugenics and Euthenics Eugenic programs desired to control individual heredity Eugenics supporters were more numerous and vocal. Euthenics sought to control the environment Euthenics supporters were small in number and less vocal

The Research Committee:

The Research Committee The American Breeders Association stated their goal as keeping the American race “pure.” They proposed the following: Segregation Anything necessary to keep the “socially undersirable” from reproducing Birth control Those from the lower economic status and those of low IQs were given access to free birth control clinics

The Research Committee:

The Research Committee Rewards for parenthood Scholarships were given to those (white) families that exhibited a “superior ability” to raise a family. Restrictive marriages Laws were designed to prohibit Blacks from marrying Whites Eutelegenesis Selected “sires” were used continuously to produce perfect babies Sterilization The leading remedy for “race betterment”

Sterilization Laws:

Sterilization Laws Indiana Law (1907) Washington (1909) 24 states by 1930 Vasectomy Salpingectomy

Degenerate Families:

Degenerate Families A study was done by Arthur Estabrook in 1915 on a family that allegedly produced many offspring classified as immoral, harlots, lechers, paupers, drunkards, fornicators, murderers, rapists, and thieves. “The Kallikaks” Falsely fabricated family! Taken from the Greek words Kalos – good Kakos - bad

The Pioneer Fund:

The Pioneer Fund The Pioneer Fund was and continues to be used to support racial studies in the United States. J. Phillipe Ruston, recipient of the Pioneer Fund, focused his studies on proving that “the bigger one’s brain and the smaller one’s genitals,” the greater one’s intelligence. Where did his inspiration come from?

Black Americans and Psychology:

Black Americans and Psychology Eugenicists were viewed as white supremacists by the Black community Their studies were ignored Similarly, the white community was indifferent to the remarks of Black scholars.

Interesting Quotes:

Interesting Quotes “The best men must cohabit with the best women in as many cases as possible and the worst in the fewest, and the offspring of the one must reared and that of the other not, if the flock is to be as perfect as possible.” –Plato “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” – Matthew 7:17-18

Interesting Quotes:

Interesting Quotes “Man is an organism-an animal: and the laws of improvement of corn and race horses hold true of him also. Unless people accept this simple truth and let it influence marriage selection, human progress will cease.” – Charles Davenport Samuel George Morton on Racial characterizations Europeans “This race is distinguished for the facility with which it attains the highest intellectual endowments. . . have peopled the finest portions of the earth, and given birth to its fairest inhabitants. . .” Africans “Like most other barbarous nations their institutions are not infrequently characterized by superstition and cruelty…The Negroes have little invention, but strong powers of imitation, so that they readily acquire mechanic arts.”


Resources Guthrie, Robert. Even the Rat Was White: A Historical View of Psychology .Massachusetts: A Viacom Company, 1976. The Debate Over Slavery. Sept 2007. Excerpts from Samuel George Morton, Crania Americana. 24 Sept 2007. < > July 2007. The Science of Eugenics. 24 Feb 2007. Heisser Metoyer, Patricia. African-American Psychology . University Readers, San Diego, California, 2011.

authorStream Live Help