While providing the first in-depth history of the LaFargue Clinic (1946-57), the book focuses on the figures who came together in a seemingly unlikely union to found it: Richard Wright, the prominent author; Frederic Wertham, a German-American psychiatrist now known for his advocacy for censorship of comic books; and The Reverend Shelton Hale Bishop, an important Harlem pastor. Wright’s literary prowess, work for the Communist party, and brush with Chicago School sociology met with Wertham’s socially-conscious and uncompromising brand of psychoanalysis to challenge mainstream psychiatric theory and its discriminatory practices in the Jim Crow North. Those who could afford it were charged 25 cents for sessions in the basement of St. Philip’s Episcopal church in Harlem, and 50 cents for court testimonials. A thoroughgoing grassroots effort, ignored by philanthropists and state funding, the LaFargue Clinic throws mid-20th Century mental health and race relations into relief, and is sure to stir interest in the untold stories of projects like it.
The March issue of The Psychologist, the flagship magazine of the British Psychological Society, includes an article marking the centenary of psychologist Hans Eysenck’s birth. Eysenck, a controversial and very public figure within psychology, would have celebrated this milestone birthday on March 4th 2016. As the article notes,
Hans J. Eysenck (1916–1997) enjoyed an extraordinary life in British psychology, much of it played out in the limelight of public attention. His fame and influence extended beyond the shores of these isles, to encompass the globe. He inspired generations of psychologists, many of whom were enthralled by his popular books that made psychology seem so vital, relevant and even urgent. His was an open invitation: arise from the supine position on the analytical couch, leap out from the comfort of the philosophical armchair, and visit the psychology laboratory – one chapter in Fact and Fiction in Psychology (Eysenck, 1965a) is titled, ‘Visit to a psychological laboratory’. His easy-to-understand causal theories of ‘what makes people tick’ (exposing the inner working of the human clock) were especially fascinating to an inquisitive public. He also courted controversy: his style of advocating change and some of the positions he took, especially on politically charged issues like race and IQ, attracted criticism of his work, and of him.
As we mentioned previously on AHP a special IamPsyched! Museum Day Live exhibit is planned for March 12th at the APA Capitol View Conference Center. The event, “Inspiring Histories, Inspiring Lives: Women of Color in Psychology,” is a collaboration between the American Psychological Association Women’s Programs Office, the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron and Psychology’s Feminist Voices Oral History and Digital Archive Project, in partnership with the White House Council on Women and Girls. The initiative aims to “immerse museum-goers in the histories of women of color in psychology and their legacies for contemporary psychology.” The event will feature a curated, interactive exhibit, a live-streamed interactive discussion, and empowering activities for girls. Full details can now be found on exhibit’s webpage.
In advance of the big day you can also join in the social media excitement by pledging your support on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr through Thunderclap. This platform allows social media postings to be pre-scheduled and unleashed all at once, like an online flash mob. When you sign up to share the IamPsyched! message, it will automatically post just this one message on your behalf. Go here to schedule your Tweet or Facebook post now!
As part of the Smithsonian’s Museum Day Live! events on March 12th – National Girl Scout Day – a special pop-up museum exploring the contributions of women of colour in psychology will be launched. The pop-up museum, I Am Psyched!, is a collaboration between the American Psychological Association, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology (a Smithsonian Affiliate), and Psychology’s Feminist Voices. In a recent blog post on the Smithsonian Affiliate blog, the project is described as focusing
on illuminating the past, present, and future of women of color in the field of psychology. Historically, psychology has been dominated by white men. However, the period following World War II and the Civil Rights Movement, women of color entered the field in greater numbers, leaving inspirational stories and paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive psychology.
I Am Psyched! explores these stories and celebrates the legacies of these women through a pop-up museum exhibit, a live-streamed conversation hour with groundbreaking women psychologists, and on-site and virtual learning activities.
The pop-up exhibit, to be installed at the American Psychological Association’s Capitol View Conference Center in Washington, DC, will feature film, sound recordings, images, artifacts, and letters that tell the fascinating story of how women of color have and continue to contribute to psychology.
In Under the Strain of Color, Gabriel N. Mendes recaptures the history of a largely forgotten New York City institution that embodied new ways of thinking about mental health, race, and the substance of citizenship. Harlem’s Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic was founded in 1946 as both a practical response to the need for low-cost psychotherapy and counseling for black residents (many of whom were recent migrants to the city) and a model for nationwide efforts to address racial disparities in the provision of mental health care in the United States.
The result of a collaboration among the psychiatrist and social critic Dr. Fredric Wertham, the writer Richard Wright, and the clergyman Rev. Shelton Hale Bishop, the clinic emerged in the context of a widespread American concern with the mental health of its citizens. It proved to be more radical than any other contemporary therapeutic institution, however, by incorporating the psychosocial significance of antiblack racism and class oppression into its approach to diagnosis and therapy.
Mendes shows the Lafargue Clinic to have been simultaneously a scientific and political gambit, challenging both a racist mental health care system and supposedly color-blind psychiatrists who failed to consider the consequences of oppression in their assessment and treatment of African American patients. Employing the methods of oral history, archival research, textual analysis, and critical race philosophy, Under the Strain of Color contributes to a growing body of scholarship that highlights the interlocking relationships among biomedicine, institutional racism, structural violence, and community health activism.
The summer issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore the relationships of scientists who disagreed over the nature of race, the origins of Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure, Alfred Binet’s role as editorial director of a French publishing house, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Race relationships: Collegiality and demarcation in physical anthropology,” by Peter Sachs Collopy. The abstract reads,
In 1962, anthropologist Carleton Coon argued in The Origin of Races that some human races had evolved further than others. Among his most vocal critics were geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky and anthropologist Ashley Montagu, each of whom had known Coon for decades. I use this episode, and the long relationships between scientists that preceded it, to argue that scientific research on race was intertwined not only with political projects to conserve or reform race relations, but also with the relationships scientists shared as colleagues. Demarcation between science and pseudoscience, between legitimate research and scientific racism, involved emotional as well as intellectual labor.
A project is underway to digitize the records of the Central State Hospital in Virginia. Led by King Davis, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, the project includes some 800,000 documents which span the period between 1870 and 1970. The collection is extraordinarily unique both in terms of its size and its scope. Davis has described that: “This is the most complete set of records on African Americans and mental health in place in the world” (source: Alcalde).
The Central State Hospital – formerly the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane – was opened in 1870. It was the only institution designated for the treatment of African Americans to operate in the state prior to the passing of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Its story is one of only a small handful of “Colored Asylums”: while institutions for the insane would open in every state in the continental US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the vast majority served a uniquely White demographic.
The impetus for the project was reportedly the deterioration of the Central State Hospital’s records. Although digitization provides a way to preserve this rare archival collection, researchers must face the challenge of maintaining the privacy of the individual patients. To address these concerns the team is developing new Steganoscription software that will recognize the personal information contained within the handwritten documents.
Unfortunately the status of the project has been reported as “at a standstill” due to funding problems. In the meantime, a prototype of the website design can be found here.
This month the Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association) offers a special virtual issue of the journal History of Psychology. Entitled “Teaching Diversity: What can History Offer?” this free volume includes three pieces selected and introduced by Division President Alexandra Rutherford which “address gender, race/ethnicity, and the intersection of sexuality and disability in historical perspective” in order to highlight “that historical scholarship offers a rich and often untapped resource for instructors who wish to engage students in critical conversations about diversity issues across the psychology curriculum.” Rutherford’s introduction “outline[s] how these articles can be incorporated into courses across the curriculum to deepen students’ understanding of how psychology and psychologists have grappled with these issues and how historical analyses can inform contemporary topics and debates.”
The conclusion to Rutherford’s introductory article provides a concise synopsis of how this special issue can be a resource for the promotion of socially responsible pedagogical values in psychology, and their application in the classroom:
“The articles featured here to encourage the use of historical scholarship across the psychology curriculum demonstrate how history can facilitate forms of critical thinking that have the potential to make students better scholars and better psychologists. By encountering historical analyses that provoke critical questions about the relationship between science and culture, science and politics, and science and society, students develop the capacity to examine the preexisting assumptions that may creep uncritically into contemporary research. They develop the capacity to examine the role that psychology, as a powerful scientific and social institution, plays in our everyday lives. There is no reason that the development of these skills should be undertaken only in the history of psychology course. I hope this introduction has provided some ideas about how to use history to achieve critical learning objectives across the curriculum.”
A new issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issues are articles on racial issues in psychiatry in China and the United States, the admission of medical doctors as patients in English asylums, the history of the insanity defence in Australia, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Hebephrenia: A conceptual history,” by Abdullah Kraam and Paula Phillips. The abstract reads,
This paper traces the conceptual history of hebephrenia from the late nineteenth century until it became firmly embedded into modern psychiatric classification systems. During this examination of the origins and the historical context of hebephrenia it will be demonstrated how it became inextricably linked with twentieth-century notions of schizophrenia. The first detailed description of hebephrenia in 1871 by Ewald Hecker, then a virtually unknown German psychiatrist, created a furore in the psychiatric establishment. Within a decade hebephrenia was a firmly embedded concept of adolescent insanity. Daraszkiewicz, Kraepelin’s brilliant assistant in Dorpat, broadened Hecker’s concept of hebephrenia by including severe forms. This paved the way for Kraepelin to incorporate it together with catatonia as a subtype of dementia praecox. We recognize Hecker’s hebephrenia in DSM-IV as schizophrenia, disorganized type. Although DSM-5 will probably abolish subtypes of schizophrenia, characteristic features of hebephrenia will be found within the proposed domains of disorganization, restricted emotional expression and avolition.
The November issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section features a piece on psychologist and civil rights activist Olivia Hooker (right). At the APA’s 2011 convention Hooker spoke about her experience, when she was just six years old, of the Tulsa Race Riot in 1921. Hooker shares similar recollections in the above video from CUNY TV. As described in the article,
Hooker is also renowned as the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard and as a pioneering psychologist when there were few African-American women in the field. Her other noteworthy accomplishments include writing a German vocabulary guide for psychology students, leading a Girl Scout troop in a town where she was the only black person, helping to establish APA’s Div. 33 (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) and teaching people of all ages — from preschoolers to PhD candidates — to embody the Golden Rule.
The entire piece on Hooker’s life and work can be read online here.