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Mental Health, Racism, and Contemporary Challenges of Being Black in America

Edited by Donna M. Norris, M.D., and Annelle B. Primm, M.D., M.P.H.

  • ISBN 978-1-61537-470-0
  • Item #37470
Winner of the 2024 Creative Scholarship Award from the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture

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Collected in a single volume for the first time, the writings in this novel anthology represent more than four decades of perspectives from the American Psychiatric Association's Solomon Carter Fuller Award lectures, named for the first Black psychiatrist in the United States. The chapter authors—Solomon Carter Fuller awardees themselves, psychiatrists building on the work of previous awardees, and other scholar experts—offer a multidisciplinary, cross-sectional examination of both the historical and contemporary environments that inform the Black experience in the United States.
These treatises look at the intersection of mental health with topics that include the following:

  • Public health and public policy
  • Health care inequities
  • Racism
  • Economic well-being
  • Media
  • Education

Emphasizing the real challenges that Black communities have faced and continue to face, each chapter also offers reasons for perseverance in the face of adversity.
Readers will come away with a better understanding of the complexity of the Black experience in America and its impact on mental health, as well as a greater awareness of and appreciation for the legacy and ongoing contributions of Black psychiatric leaders to the field.


  • Introduction
  • I. Conditions Affecting Life in Black Communities
  • Chapter 1. Public Health and Mental Health Disparities in Black Communities: Challenges for American
  • Chapter 2. The Highs and Lows of Public Health Practice
  • Chapter 3. Why Economic Disparities Matter in Mental Health
  • Chapter 4. African Americans and Substance Use
  • Chapter 5. Black Psychiatrists Responding to the Mental Health Impact of Natural and Human-Caused
  • Disasters and Systemic Inequities
  • II. Responding to the Realities of Racism
  • Chapter 6. Application of an Emotional Competence Framework to Racism
  • Chapter 7. Centering Blackness in Mental Health Equity
  • Chapter 8. The Media Is the Message: Film and TV Influences on Black Mental Health
  • III. A Call to Research
  • Chapter 9. The Work and Legacy of Dr. Carl Bell
  • Part 1: Building a Better Village
  • Part 2: Public Health Efforts
  • Chapter 10. Will Advances in Research Address Racial Disparities?
  • Chapter 11. Identities at the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Mental Illness: Remembering Chester Pierce
  • IV. Racism, Leadership, and Organized Psychiatry
  • Chapter 12. Reflections on the Origin of the Black Psychiatrists of America
  • Chapter 13. The Urgency of Responsible Leadership in American Psychiatry: Racial Bias and the Biopsychosocial Crises Impacting Mental Health in Communities of Color
  • Chapter 14. The Caravan Moves On: From Solomon Carter Fuller to Psychiatry in the Twenty-First Century
  • Chapter 15. Nigrescence and the Future of American Psychiatry Appendix: Solomon Carter Fuller Award Lecturers


    June Jackson Christmas, M.D.
    H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H.
    Pamela Y. Collins, M.D., M.P.H.
    James P. Comer, M.D., M.P.H.
    Devin Cromartie, M.D., M.P.H.
    Michelle P. Durham, M.D., M.P.H., DFAPA, DFAACAP
    Loma K. Flowers, M.D.
    Keith Hermanstyne, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.H.P.M.
    William Lawson, M.D., Ph.D., DLFAPA
    Hassell H. McClellan, M.B.A.
    Stephen A. McLeod-Bryant, M.D.
    Donna M. Norris, M.D.
    Nicola Park, M.D.
    Annelle B. Primm, M.D., M.P.H., DLFAPA
    David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D.
    Ruth S. Shim, M.D., M.P.H.
    Altha J. Stewart, M.D.
    Johnny Williamson, M.D.

About the Authors

Donna M. Norris, M.D., is Assistant Professor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Annelle B. Primm, M.D., M.P.H., is Senior Medical Director for The Steve Fund and Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland.

This is a powerful book. The authors masterfully weave well-documented historical facts with current research findings and personal anecdotes from their own experiences in academia, finance, law, public health, politics, and clinical practice. Together, the diverse voices of this book put forward a compelling call for leadership in American psychiatry to efface mental health disparities and systemic inequalities.—Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A. (he, him, his), Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, and Associate Dean, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School; Chief of Service, University Hospital, Newark, New Jersey; Director, Northern NJ MAT Center of Excellence; President-elect, American Psychiatric Association

Mental Health, Racism, and Contemporary Challenges of Being Black in America is an enlightening and historical read that reminds us that racism is one of America's most challenging issues and that its effects are pernicious and pervasive and result in enduring negative effects. The solutions to addressing racism and its effects must be collective and rooted in advocacy, social and political action, and a moral reawakening.—Deborah Deas, M.D., M.P.H., Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, Mark and Pam Rubin Dean, University of California Riverside School of Medicine

Mental Health, Racism, and Contemporary Challenges of Being Black in America is a thought-provoking collection of chapters written by knowledgeable eminent Black leaders in health and mental health. The authors honestly describe the history of racism, disparities, and inequalities that our health care system has enabled in the treatment of mental health and incorporates views on how poverty, policy, and media influence the Black experience. In answer to these challenges, the contributors describe research, innovative practices, and structural changes in our health care system and also in our own professional association that are needed to move us forward to an equal and inclusive society. This book is a must read for all of us who seek to understand the challenges of being Black in America in order to change the disparities and inequities in our health care system.—Ann Marie Sullivan, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai

Mental Health, Racism, and Contemporary Challenges of Being Black in America is an important must-read book for anyone who is interested in the legacy of Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller and the intersection of race, racism, and mental health in the twenty-first century.—Constance E. Dunlap, DLFAPA, FACPsych, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, APA Area 3 Council Representative-elect

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