Chicago Behavioral Hospital Celebrates Black Pioneers in Mental Health

February is Black History Month, a national celebration of black culture and the achievements of African Americans throughout U.S. history. In fact, the origins of Black History Month can be traced back to Chicago, when Carter G. Woodson returned to his alma mater, the University of Chicago, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of emancipation.

There have been many impactful contributions to the mental health field by African Americans throughout our country’s history. Here are just a few Black pioneers who have helped to advance the field of mental health, reduce the stigma associated with mental health, and provide hope and help to those living with mental health conditions:

Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark, along with her husband Dr. Kenneth Clark, conducted groundbreaking research that helped to end segregation. She was passionate about equity and accessibility to mental health services which led to opening her own agency to provide services to under-resourced families.

Dr. Maxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr. was the founder of rational behavioral therapy, a treatment methodology that proved to be comprehensive, yet short-term, with long-lasting therapeutic outcomes.

Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was among the first Black psychiatrists. His work included substantial contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and manic depression.

Jacki McKinney, MSW, is a survivor and advocate. She is known for her national presentations on topics related to minority mental health and issues faced by African American women and children. Ms. McKinney has received several awards for her leadership and advocacy.

Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD, was the first African American woman to earn a PhD in psychology. The findings of her research on the impacts of racial inequality and racism on the development of Black children led to some of the first discussions about desegregating schools.

Dr. Jeanne Spurlock was a psychiatrist, educator, and writer whose focus was on bringing to light the impact of poverty, sexism, racism, and discrimination on women, minorities, and the GLBTQ community. She began her career in Chicago, serving in a number of leadership roles including chief of the Child Psychiatry Clinic at Michael Reese Hospital. Dr. Spurlock served as deputy medical director of the American Psychiatric Association from 1974 to 1991.

Francis Sumner, PhD, is often referred to as the Father of Black Psychology because he was the first African American to receive a PhD degree in psychology. Dr. Sumner was invested in understanding racial bias and supporting educational justice. He was also a founder of the psychology department at Howard University.

The efforts of the individuals listed here are just a sampling of the contributions that African Americans have made in the mental health field. Throughout history, communities of color have experienced unique and substantial challenges in accessing services to meet their mental health needs. Chicago Behavioral Hospital does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, or disability in its programs and activities. We continually strive to stand up for equality and eliminate barriers for those in need of mental health support.