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Black Psychiatrists and American Psychiatry

Edited by Jeanne Spurlock, M.D.

  • ISBN 978-0-89042-411-7
  • Item #2411

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Presenting a vivid historical account of the contributions that black psychiatrists have made to American psychiatry, this work documents the growth and influence of the group in tandem with the advancement of the field as a whole. It provides us with an appreciation for what the pioneers accomplished and the hurdles they overcame.

Spurlock and the book's many distinguished contributors provide an overview of the history spanning generations and various areas of psychiatry. It covers:

  • The early and contemporary pioneers and their contributions to modern psychiatry
  • Surveys of black psychiatrists in academia, child psychiatry, psychiatric research, forensic psychiatry, and psychoanalysis, which provide an enlightening view of their experiences
  • Personal reflections from some of the pioneers, which allow the reader to step into their shoes and experience how they lived
  • Barriers and coping mechanisms of black psychiatrists
  • Current mental health issues affecting African Americans

A useful work for psychiatry students or residents and for anyone interested in the history of American psychiatry.


  • Foreword. Preface.

    Part I: Historical Reviews.

    Early and contemporary pioneers. Development of a department of psychiatry in a general hospital. Community psychiatry and work in the public sector. Development of the Department of Psychiatry at Meharry Medical College. Participant observer: the experiences of a black transcultural psychiatrist, 1972–1994. Black Americans in military psychiatry.

    Part II: Surveys.

    Black psychiatrists and academia. Child and adolescent psychiatrists. Black psychiatric researchers. Forensic psychiatrists. Psychoanalysts.

    Part III: Personal Reminiscences.

    Reflections of a commissioner of mental health and a head of a department of psychiatry. Reflections on the career of a black psychiatrist in the veterans administration.

    Part IV: Current Mental Health Issues Affecting African Americans.

    Mental health issues affecting African Americans. Index.

About the Authors

Jeanne Spurlock, M.D., has held numerous positions including Director of the Children's Psychosomatic Unit at the University of Illinois; Chief of Child Psychiatry at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago; Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Meharry Medical College; and the Deputy Medical Director and Director of the Office of Minority National Affairs for the American Psychiatric Association. She has received several awards, including the honorary degree of Doctor of Science Award from Spelman College; the APA Solomon Carter Fuller, McGavin and Presidential Commendation Awards; the Institute of the Pennsylvania Award in memory of Edward A. Strecker, M.D.; and the Guardian for Children Award from the National Black Child Development Institute. Dr. Spurlock has also served as coeditor and coauthor of more than 33 publications.

This book should be read by those with an interest in the history of psychiatry as well as by those who wonder what psychiatrists do in addition to helping individuals overcome the symptoms of those biological disorders called mental illness.—Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

This text assembles multiple architectural views of the contributions that blacks have made to American psychiatry. The accounts vary in intensity and poignancy. But the chapters repeatedly evoke the crucial question of why such a talented class of physicians has encountered so many impediments to practicing their art with unfettered encouragement. Spurlock and her colleagues remind us, in a thoughtful and intriguing fashion, that as a historical matter, black physicians have not been able to pursue excellence freely in these United States. The slope toward achievement even for such an educated group of blacks has been slippery and encumbered. But the text captures well their spirit of persistence.—Ezra E. H. Griffith, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and African-American Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Solomon Carter Fuller, the first black psychiatrist (1872–1953), was followed by only a handful of other pioneers. Not until the Civil Rights movement of the '60s did opportunities open. But prejudice and discrimination have always marked their path, as illustrated here by the poignant reminisces of Mildred Mitchell-Bateman (W. Va. commissioner of mental health 1962–1977) and James Baker (VA 1953–1986). The book offers surveys of black psychiatrists, numbers and their experiences, in chapters on community psychiatry, academia, research, psychoanalysis, and transcultural, military, and forensic areas. Despite progress, fewer than 4% of all psychiatrists are black, with few in leadership positions. The book provides a baseline to measure further progress.—Lucy D. Ozarin, M.D., Medical Director (retired), USPHS, Bethesda, Maryland

I was excited to see Black Psychiatrists and American Psychiatry. It provides a much needed overview of the history and current practice of black physicians specializing in psychiatry. This important and useful book is essential reading for those interested in history of medicine, psychiatry, and black history.—Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York

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