Celebrating Black History Month gives us the opportunity to highlight the pioneering work of black therapists, social workers, and doctors who made significant and often overlooked contributions to the field of mental health. People like:
Mary Battle Singer, born in the American south in 1910, studied at Smith College and then traveled to Europe to work as a psychiatric social worker in post-war Germany. Singer completed her Ph.D. at London University and practiced and taught psychology at Cambridge for most of her career. “She was known to generations of undergraduates, lecturers, and professors as a teacher, analyst, and friend, and she liked to complain that she could hardly go anywhere in Cambridge without meeting people who had been or were in her treatment.”
Although best known for his work leading the National Urban League from 1941-1961, Lester Blackwell Granger (1896-1976) was trained as a social worker. Working with black youth in New Jersey, Granger “became a leading figure in the new social work profession and by 1952 was elected the first African American president of the National Conference of Social Work.”
Working a little closer to home, Henry and Sarah Fitzbutler played a founding role in the history of medicine in Louisville. Sarah Fitzbutler was the first African American woman to receive a medical degree in Kentucky and Herny Fitzbutler, himself a trained physician, lobbied the Kentucky legislature to form the first black-owned medical school in the city. The Louisville National Medical College opened in 1888 and the couple were dedicated to serving the community’s 18,000 black residents.
Learn more at:
- The first black child psychotherapist? - Marie Battle Singer | Association of Child Psychotherapists (childpsychotherapy.org.uk)