Two African American Pioneers in Mental Health

Two African American Pioneers in Mental Health

Mental Health America of Eastern Carolina works locally to raise awareness about mental health. Historically, communities of color experience unique and significant challenges in accessing services. Kenneth B. Clark and Inez B. Prosser were two important pioneer figures that fought for the rights of African Americans in mental health.

Kenneth Bancroft Clark, PhD (1914-2005)

Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark was an African American psychologist, educator, and social activist. He is known for the famous “doll study,” where he studied the responses of more than 200 black children who were given a choice of white or brown dolls.His finding showed that children showed preference and prejudice as early as three years old. Dr. Clark concluded that segregation was damaging, which played a pivotal role in the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. He and his wife, Mamie Phipps Clark co-founded The Northside Center for Child Development, which was one of the first agencies to make psychological services available to poor, black children. He also was the first black president of the American Psychological Association.

Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD (1891-1934)

Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser was the first known African American woman to obtain her PhD. She studied how racially integrated and racially segregated schools impact African American youth. She found that African American children managed better socially and academically in segregated schools. Which was controversial leading up to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954. Many supported until such time that prejudicial attitudes of white teachers would sufficiently change to offer positive experiences for black children. Dr. Prosser spent her last seven years of her life teaching in black colleges.

We have made huge strides over the years, however, racism continues to have an impact on the mental health of Black/African Americans. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection have lowered, but still remain with adverse consequences. In the field of psychology there were hardly any Blacks/African Americans represented during the time Dr. Clark and Dr. Prosser were around.According to the American Psychological Association, in 2013, still only 5.3 percent of Blacks/African Americans are in the psychology workforce. We need to continue to push for improvement and inclusion in our health care systems and our daily lives.

About MHA of Eastern Carolina

Mental Health America of Eastern Carolina (MHAEC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in

Greenville, NC. The organization is dedicated to supporting healthier and happier lives of those affected

by mental health and substance use in Eastern Carolina, through promoting wellness through

prevention, advocacy, and education by partnering to improve accessibility, effectiveness, and

integration of systems. For more information about MHAEC, or to take a free and confidential mental health screening, please visit: