Hey everyone, hope you’re all having a great February! I’d like to continue the series on black pioneers in mental health as it is important to understand the foundation of modern day psychology. This week we are focusing our attention on the first black psychologist, Dr. Francis Sumner. Summer was born in Arkansas on December 7, 1895 to David and Lillian Sumner. Throughout his life, he strived to be educated and well informed. With the help of his parents, his secondary education was primarily self taught. This was due to the fact that education for BIPOC, especially African American and Black individuals, was not the best and discrimination heavily occured at the time. Despite having no college diploma and being only 15 years old, Sumner was able to overcome these obstacles and pass the entrance exam to attend Lincoln University. During undergrad at Lincoln, he studied english, modern languages, greek, latin, and philosophy. He later pursued his masters in Psychology after forming a good relationship with G. Stanley Hall and James P. Porter. In the year 1920, Sumner became the first African American man to become a psychologist.
As a psychologist, his work focused on “race psychology” and eliminating racial biases seen within the field. Throughout his career he had 45 publications that ranged between topics in education, justice, race, and religious psychology; moreover, he became an advocate for educational equality amongst African American and Black communities. This led to his career as a faculty member at Howard University. He continued to mentor and inspire Black individuals to pursue careers within psychology and later became the founder of the psychology department within Howard University. Today, his impact within the field lives on as the rate of black psychologists has grown to about 4%. He continues to inspire many and his memory of being the first black psychologist will not be forgotten.