Quick Links

Black Psychology

The Black Education Free Encyclopaedia

psychology and wellness assessment -alex-green
Photo Credits: Alex Green

Black psychology dates back to 1968 when black psychologists confronted the American Psychological Association in a meeting convened at San Francisco. They accused the association of promoting white racism, which undermined the survival and development of the black population (Belgrave & Allison, 2006). The black psychologists demanded that the American Psychological Association raise black population representation and certify the psychological groups dealing with marginalized communities, especially black decency. Notably, this was followed by adopting the African-based knowledge mostly borrowed from Egypt’s early education and Greek wisdom concerning the understanding of human relationships and beliefs.

Black psychology deals with understanding Africans from their perception of life, nature, and their experiences relating to other races. Moreover, black psychology is concerned with values and virtues unique to Africans. It is psychology that focuses on unraveling the spiritual approach of Africans and their thought pathways while also examining their mental health. Black psychology relies on the traditional system that seeks to condemn the weaknesses of white-centered psychology, such as promoting racism against the black population while portraying the whites as special characters (Guthriel, 1976). It is important to note that while the traditional approach faults European-centered psychology, it does not advocate for the enhancement of black psychology. Moreover, black psychology also relies on the reforming techniques, which criticize white psychology and expose its shortcomings and seek to merge both white values and perceptions with those of Africans for better results and understanding.

Notably, black psychology also relies on a transformative or radical approach that seeks to wholly lean on African values and distinct perceptions regardless of how their white counterparts perceive them. African American Psychology uses different models to better understand and recognize the black population worldwide concerning its perception of life, values, and culture. Such models include education and black identity models.

This model of black psychology was found around 1970 after respected African; namely, Du Bois expressed his feelings towards a population stuck in a dilemma of choosing between white and black population values and perceptions. William Dubois felt that the failure of the African American community to identify with a culture of African origin and take pride in it would bring more tribulations for the black population in America. Therefore, reputable scholars with a similar mindset as that of Dubois, such as Janet Helms, coined black identity theory to help the black population understand their race better and be liberated from evils of social discrimination based on color. The black identity model devised by these proponents of black power further unveiled studies to describe the black perceptions of race, social status, and mechanisms of measuring the extent of black racist ideologies within the black population.

The black population identity course adopted was meant to deliver Africans across the world from the shackles of European-centered perceptions, which demeaned Africans and racially discriminated against them as a weaker race. Black psychology studies were to further Africanism by applying African philosophies towards life, the environment, and generalist perspectives of the blacks towards their history (Harris, 1996). African psychologists further developed the discipline of black psychology through extensive research based on Africana world views to help the world understand African spiritualism, intelligence levels, demographic patterns such as value for families, and self-awareness within the population.

The African American psychology extensive studies established grounds on which families were defined by the black people and the essence of the families to the people whether related by blood or not. Black psychology focused on understanding the way of life of Africans and their survival mechanisms in the harsh environment where they had been subjected to radicalized discrimination and seen as weak humans (Brown & Jackson, 2012). The values promoted by black psychologists recognized black power in both social, economic, and political arenas using a cooperative spirit, interrelationships, and accountability within the family setting.

African American psychology impacts education by identifying educational gaps and relevant career paths for Africans. Black psychology started to address the educational issues of Africans around 1971 with great emphasis on the integration of culture-rich models into the systems of learning that value and understand the blacks with no doubts about their intelligence, social life, and spiritualism (Chapman & Adams, 2016).

Black psychologists focused on deconstructing biased education systems propagated by the white psychologists that underrated the black people and viewed them as poor creators unfit for disciplines such as those involving scientific studies. Moreover, Black psychology fostered the principles of togetherness in economic development by African Americans, cooperative spirit, purposeful and unified approach towards work. It also promoted openness, accountability, and peaceful co-existence of Africans in pursuit of their goals in the education sector.

Although black psychology emerged as a reaction of Africans towards biased, unfair, and discriminative philosophies and theories proposed by the White psychologists, it is focused on promoting the values of Africans in aspects of social, economic, and global politics. Black psychology seeks to establish meaningful and harmonious inter-racial models that will eliminate negative beliefs and energy that lead to racial discrimination and chaotic relationships between whites and Africans. The future black psychology will establish mechanisms of dealing with mental problems of Africans arising from their experiences in both the United States at the entire world.

Akbar, N. (2004) The Akbar Papers. Tallahassee: Mind Productions. A reader that cover thirty of years of thinking and doing around the question of African Psychology by one of the founders of the African Psychology movement.

Akbar, N. (1985) Nile Valley Origins of the Science of the Mind. In Ivan Van Sertima (Ed.), Nile Valley Civilizations, New York: Journal of African Civilizations. A historical and philosophical discussion of the ancient African foundations of Western psychology.

Akbar, N. (1986) “Africentric Social Sciences for Human Liberation.” Journal of Black Studies, 14 (4), 395-414. An important discussion of the ways in which worldviews inform psychology and the role that an Africentric worldview can play in helping to humanize psychology.

Bynum, E.B. (1999) The African Unconscious: Roots of Ancient Mysticism and Modern Psychology. New York: Teachers College Press. An interesting thesis, which attempts to unify the strands of human development with the origins of the human species on the African continent. A well-written and thought-provoking treatise.

Clark, C.X., Nobles, W., McGee, D.P., and Weems, X.L. (1975) “Voodoo or I.Q.: An Introduction to African Psychology.” The Journal of Black Psychology, 1 (2), 1975. Voodoo or I.Q. is the article that launched a movement. This is the seminal article that literally changed the face of Black psychology. In many ways this article was ahead of its time in its dealing with the importance of African culture as a means of psychological order. 

Guthrie, R.V. (1998) Even The Rat Was White (2nd Ed). Needham Heights, Ma.: Allyn and Bacon A much updated sequel to the first edition, with stories and perspectives from a more contemporary generation of Black Psychologists.

Guthrie, R. (1976) Even the Rat Was White. New York: Harper & Row. A historical analysis of the racist use of Western psychology and the African-American pioneers in Western psychology. 

Jenkins, A. (1982) The Psychology of the Afro-American: A Humanistic Approach. New York: Pergamon Press. A very well done text on the psychological experiences of Black folks in America, written from the perspective of a humanistic personality theoretical base, by one of that generation’s leading scholars.

Jones, R. (Ed.) (2004) Black Psychology (4th ed.). Hampton, VA: Cobb and Henry. This hook is the culmination of nearly thirty years of theory, research, and practice in the area of Black psychology. This is a must have book for anyone seriously interested in the writings of some of the seminal thinkers in the field.

Jones, R.L. (1991) Black Psychology (3rd ED) Hampton, Va.: Cobb and Henry. A very good synthesis of articles published in the first and second editions of the Black Psychology series, with some new articles by emerging authors.

Kambon, K.K. (1998) African-Black Psychology in the American Context: An AfricanCentered Approach. Explores the historical and philosophical foundations of African Psychology, while laying out its theoretical and paradigmatic parameters for and African Centered psychology. Tallahassee: Nubian Nation Publications 

Myers, L .J. (1988) Understanding the Africentric Worldview: Introduction to an Optimal Psychology. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/ Hunt. A theoretical discussion of the humanizing potential that an Afrocentric psychology can have on the continued development of psychology. 

Nobles, W. W. (2006). Seeking the Sakhu: Foundational Writings for an African Psychology. Chicago: Third World Press. This critical collection of essays follows the earliest articulations of black philosophy as the foundation of Black psychology to the development of African Psychology to the beginning of Sakhu Sheti-the ancient Kemetic notion of illuminating the spirit. 

Nobles, W.W. (1972) African Philosophy: Foundation for a Black Psychology. In R. Jones (Ed.), Black Psychology. New York: Harper Row. Nobles posits that there exists a core African philosophy that should he the basis for a Black psychology. In many ways this article helped to launch the African centered psychology movement. 

Nobles, W.W. (1986) African Psychology: Toward Its Recla¬mation, Reascension and Revitalization. Oakland: Institute for the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture. The first text to explore in detail the basis for an African psychology. 

Pugh, R. (1972) The Psychology of the Black Experience. Monterey, Ca.: Brooks/Cole. This text provides some indept analysis on the psychological challenges African descent people confront while living in and growing up in America. 

Thomas, A. & Sillen, S. (1972) Racism in Psychiatry. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press. A classic text by two Black psychiatrist who detail how the discipline of psychiatry was not only biased, but subjectively brutal in its treatment and classification of Black people within the mental health system. 

White, J.L. (1972) Toward a Black Psychology. In R.L. Jones (Ed) Black Psychology. New York: Harper and Row. The seminal article that served as a call to the profession of Black Psychology by an individual considered by many to be one of the contemporary godfathers of the Black Psychology movement. 

Williams, R.L. (2008) (Ed) History of The Association of Black Psychologists. Bloomington, In.: Author House. The text presents a full volume of profiles of African American Psychologists, many of whom were presidents of the national Association of Black Psychologists.

  1. Belgrave, F. A., & Allison, K. W. (2006). African American psychology: From Africa to America. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  2. Brown, R., & Jackson, J. (2012). Self-Striving and Black American Social Identity in the 21st Century. Available at SSRN 2154024.
  3.  Chapman-Hilliard, C., & Adams-Bass, V. (2016). A conceptual framework for utilizing Black history knowledge as a path to psychological liberation for Black youth. Journal of Black Psychology, 42(6), 479-507.
  4. Guthrie, R. V. (1976). Even the rat was white: A historical view of psychology. New York: Harper & Row.
  5. Harris, A. C. (1996). African American and Anglo-American gender identities: An empirical study. Journal of Black Psychology, 22(2), 182-194.

This page requires content from various sources. If you are interested in providing content for this page please submit your request here.

This page was last updated on 17, March, 2022

Share This Article

Leave a Reply

Psychology Books

Areas of Psychology

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Biopsychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Comparative Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Organisational Psychology
  • Personality Psychology
  • Quantitative Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Sports Psychology

Psychology Resources