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Scientific racism

Dr. Francis Sumner: 1st African American With Ph.D. In Psychology

Black History: Special Delivery!!

 

francis-sumner
Dr. Francis Sumner (1895-1954)

Dr. Francis Sumner was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology.  Sumner was born in 1895 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. After elementary school, Sumner was home-schooled by his parents. He was able to pass the entrance exam for Lincoln University even without having attended high school.  He began his studies at age 15 and graduated magna cum laude with honors in 1915. Sumner then attended Clark University obtaining a bachelor of arts in English in 1916. He returned to Clark University to complete his Ph.D. in psychology but was unable to start his doctoral studies due to being drafted into the army during World War I. He re-enrolled after completing military service and graduated with his Ph.D in 1920 at Clark University. Sumner became a professor and also began to publish research.

His first teaching position was at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He would later teach at other universities as well. In publishing his research, he encountered many barriers. Many research agencies refused to fund his research because he was black. In publishing articles, Sumner was outspoken in criticism of colleges and universities and their treatment of African American students. He would later go on to become one of the founders of the psychology department at Howard University. He chaired the department from 1928 until his death in 1954

Throughout his career, Sumner investigated ways to refute racism and bias prevalent in many psychological theories that suggested the inferiority of African Americans.

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Reference

Thomas, R. (2006). “Sumner, Francis Cecil.” African American National Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr, edited by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. Oxford African American Studies Center.

 

http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/psychologists/sumner-prosser.aspx 

http://legacy.earlham.edu/~knigher/personal%20biography.htm

Negritude: Disorder Of Being Black

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Dr. Benjamin Rush is known as the “Father Of American Psychiatry”. He was also an abolitionist.  Rush believed that blacks suffered from a disorder he called “Negritude” due then having dark skin.   He described this condition as being akin to leprosy.  The only cure for the condition was to become white.

Dr. Rush sited the case of Henry Moss, a slave who lost his dark skin color (probably through vitigulo),  to support his claim of Negritude being a medical condition.  He thought being black was a curable skin disease.  Rush wrote that “Whites should not tyrannize over [blacks], for their disease should entitle them to a double portion of humanity. However, by the same token, whites should not intermarry with them, for this would tend to infect posterity with the ‘disorder’… attempts must be made to cure the disease.”

Some of our Black Mail readers may remember our previous post about “Drapetomania”, a condition used to that characterized the desire of slaves to run away and seek freedom as an illness.

Scientific racism is institutional and systemic. It exists today.

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Scientific Racism: The Drapetomania Diagnosis

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Dr. Samuel Cartwright
Dr. Samuel Cartwright (1793 – 1863)

American physician Dr. Samuel Cartwright (1793 – 1863) observed black slaves who fled from captivity and saw an illness.  In 1851 he named the illness, “Drapetomania or the “disease causing Negroes to flee”. He used this diagnosis to explain that black slaves did not really want freedom and that if they did try to escape, they were actually “ill”. Cartwright suggested that the cause of Drapetomania was slave masters treating their slaves in too humane of a manner. He also suggested the illness was further caused by slaves perceiving themselves to be individuals of worth. For Cartwright, the slave’s desire for freedom was an illness and Cartwright felt that he had the cure. Continue reading “Scientific Racism: The Drapetomania Diagnosis”

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