Honoring the Black Psychologists who made (and are making!) U.S. History

At Ksana Health, we honor the Black psychologists who made, (and are actively making), history in the mental health care field. Their work recognizes the barriers to mental health care to marginalized communities and people with different lived experiences. We honor their important work, in Black History Month and year-round, to break the stigmas and accessibility barriers that Black and other underserved communities face in accessing quality mental health care.


Here is a small collection of their many stories.


Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD (1895-1934) Source APA


Dr. Prosser was the first African American woman to receive her doctoral degree in psychology. In 1933, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati with her PhD in educational psychology, with her dissertation focusing on the developmental effect of segregated schools on Black children. During her career she encouraged many Black students to pursue higher education and her work was influential in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954 (APA). Dr. Prosser’s work reflects the importance of childhood support systems and community on a lifetime of mental health, and her analysis of development on both segregated and integrated schools is prevalent today in the accessibility of wellness resources for Black youth. We honor her immense contribution to the youth behavioral health landscape.


Francis Sumner, PhD (1895-1954) Source APA


Dr. Sumner was the first African American to receive a PhD in psychology. Known as the “father of Black psychology”, he was interested in understanding racial bias. He was also a founder of the Howard University psychology depart. He reenrolled in the doctoral program at Clark and in 1920 his dissertation titled “Psychoanalysis of Freud and Adler” was accepted. Sumner became a professor at various universities and managed to publish several articles despite the refusal of research agencies to provide funding for him because of his color (APA).


Bebe Moore Campbell (1950-2006) Source Getty Images, Hurdle


Bebe Moore Campbell was the founder of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and is remembered as an author of 8 books, educator, and journalist. Kevin Dedner MPH, founder of Hurdle Health, shared on Medium how Campbell’s legacy inspired him to build a platform offering culturally responsive therapy to underserved communities. In his article, he highlighted Cambell’s difficulty finding relatable and relevant mental health care for a struggling loved one in Beverly Hills, an affluent white community. The lack of effective material and relevant care for the Black community inspired her to share her personal experience, highlighting the difficulty of navigating a white-centric mental healthcare system as a Black person. Campbell co-founded NAMI Urban Los Angeles in Inglewood and became a national spokesperson on mental health for the Black community. Two years after her death, in May 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, to honor her legacy of culturally responsive mental health care, meeting individuals and communities where they are rather than offering universal approaches to care. At Ksana Health, we honor Bebe Moore Campbells’s legacy, and the importance of her work in recognizing that mental health care blanket approaches do not work for everyone, especially those they are not designed to serve. Dedner says, “Her words have emboldened people like me — those in the mental health community who are fighting to make the system more relevant and safer for traditionally underserved patient populations.” We encourage you to read Dedner’s full article, and explore Campbell’s profile on Mental Health America for more information. You can also follow these links to learn more about Hurdle Health, and follow them on Twitter.


Today’s Changemaker Spotlight


Dr. Dana Cunningham, Dr. Jessica Henry, Dr. Nicole Cammack, and Dr. Danielle Busby: Founders of Black Mental Wellness

From Left: Dr. Cunningham, Dr. Henry, Dr. Cammack, Dr. Busby Credit: Iris Mannings Photography, People


As stated on their website, “Black Mental Wellness is a corporation, founded by clinical psychologists, who through their training and expertise, recognized the need for culturally competent professionals to collaborate and address mental health issues that are prevalent and unique to the experiences of Black people. We are passionate about addressing mental health and wellness concerns specific to the Black community, and our team has a diverse range of education and specialized training to meet this task.”

Since Spring 2018, Black Mental Wellness has been providing financially accessible culturally sensitive educational resources, programs, and workshops. In addition, this organization offers an ambassador program for students and working professionals in order to promote mentorship and establish partnerships nationwide. Their work meets individuals where they are, recognizing the impact of systemic racism on not only misinformation and stigma, but the safety and quality of mental health care for Black people. As Dr. Busby told People, “It’s hard for me to tell people to come [receive services] when I see it’s not always safe, or we don’t always have the resources for this particular group of people,” Busby adds. “That’s what made me so passionate about this. Having the resources available to make those things happen is really important.”

Health Equity is of the utmost importance, and the work being done at Black Mental Wellness meets the needs of Black individuals, where existing mental healthcare structures fail to do so. We will be closely following their work, and encourage you to follow them as well! To learn more, here is their feature in People MagazineBlack Mental Wellness Website, and Twitter.


Craig DeLarge

2 March 2021

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