Meet Four Black Pioneers in Mental Health

February 22, 2023

There are numerous Black Americans who have contributed to the field of mental health. Allow us to introduce you to four individuals.

Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD
Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD, is believed to be the first African American woman to earn a doctorate in psychology.

Her dissertation, "The Non-Academic Development of Negro Children in Mixed and Segregated Schools," studied the effects of racial inequality and racism on the development of Black children's identity and mental health.

A year after earning her degree, Dr. Prosser was tragically killed in a car accident. Inscribed on her tombstone are the words, "How many hopes lie buried here."

Simon Carter Fuller, MD
Born in Liberia, the son of a previously enslaved African who purchased his freedom and emigrated there, Dr. Simon Carter Fuller performed his ground-breaking research on the physical changes to the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Dr. Fuller was one of the first known Black psychiatrists and worked alongside Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first discovered the traits of Alzheimer's disease in 1901.

Bevery Daniel Tatum, PhD
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is the author of the renowned book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria and Other Conversations About Race, focusing on racism and the effect it has on the American education system.

Dr. Tatum contends that the effects of racism throughout early childhood can have damaging results on a child’s identity, specifically their racial identity.

Dr. Tatum’s work on racism, psychology, and the education system earned her the American Psychological Association Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology in 2014.

James P. Comer, MD, MPH
Dr. James P. Comer is currently the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center.

Dr. Comer’s focus within his career has been improving the structure of schools, leading to many achievements. He has shown involvement in the Black Psychiatrists of America organization through co-founding and holding the position as a past president.

In 2014, Dr. Comer received a prestigious nomination by President Barack Obama to serve on the President's Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.