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Posts Tagged ‘American Psychological Association’

 contributed by Tony Pankuch. For a screen reader compatible pdf of this post and documents contained within, click here.

As discussed in the CCHP’s recent video, Robert V. Guthrie and the Search for Psychology’s Hidden Figures, little work had been done prior to the 1970s to seriously spotlight the scientific contributions of Black psychologists in the United States. In the 1950s, Black psychologists remained marginalized in a field that had historically contributed to their societal oppression. Yet circumstances leading up the 1957 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association led to a purposeful effort among APA leadership to solicit the opinions of the organization’s Black members. In doing so, they collected valuable documentary evidence of marginalization in the nation’s top professional psychological organization.

Backing up for a moment, the situation surrounding the 1957 APA Convention began seven years earlier, in 1950, when the APA resolved that its meetings would henceforth be held only in institutions, hotels, and establishments which did not discriminate on the basis of race or religion. Two years later, following instances of racial discrimination during the 1952 Convention in Washington, D.C., the APA passed an additional resolution vowing not to return the convention to Washington “until additional progress has been made towards democratic treatment of minority groups.”

Fast forward to 1954, and the APA’s Council of Representatives had just voted to hold the 1957 Convention in Miami Beach, Florida—a segregated city in an extremely segregated state. APA Executive Secretary Fillmore H. Sanford explained the situation in Miami Beach somewhat optimistically:

(Click each document to enlarge.)

Document 1: See link at beginning of post.
1956, May 4. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

Note the phrase, “these are predictions and not actualities.” No one at APA could know exactly what might happen if they were to host an integrated convention in Florida. The events in Washington, D.C. had shown that, despite assurances from hotels and other establishments, racist harassment and violence remained likely in any highly segregated city.

In the years leading up to the convention, votes were held and public comments were solicited from APA members, depicting a wide range of opinions. The arguments in favor of hosting the convention in Miami Beach did not dismiss the racial segregation of the city and state. Rather, proponents believed that hosting an integrated convention in the South would actually help to advance democracy in the region. As argued by Convention Manager Jack A. Kapchan:

Document 2: See link at beginning of post.
1956, May 18. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

Kapchan’s letter was circulated among APA membership, and his argument gained the enthusiastic backing of many who cited it in their own comments. Votes were cast indicating strong support for holding the convention in Miami Beach.

Five days after Kapchan wrote his letter, Sanford drafted a written request to be sent to 37 Black psychologists who were APA members. It read:

Document 3: See link at beginning of post.
1956, May 23. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

Should APA hold its 1957 meetings in Miami Beach? Would the cause of democracy be served better by going, under the conditions described, or by refusing to go? Would you yourself go to the meeting in Miami Beach? Would you plan to attend the 1957 meetings if they were held, say, in Boston. You can see where answers to these and related questions will be of material assistance to the Board in making a sound decision on this matter.

The responses that Sanford received came from a who’s who of notable Black psychologists, some of whom would later be profiled by Robert V. Guthrie in his landmark book Even the Rat Was White. James A. Bayton, for instance, characterized a Miami Beach convention as “a mighty big risk”:

Document 4: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 18. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box V59, Folder 2.

Herman G. Canady, who notably studied racial bias in IQ testing, offered a longer response, holding the APA accountable to its 1950 and 1952 resolutions and placing the situation within a larger social and historical context:

Document 5: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 18. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

Like Canady, Roger K. Williams offered an important justification for his refusal to attend a Miami Beach convention: the danger of interstate travel.

Document 6: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 23. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

Williams’s point is an important one. To reach Miami Beach by driving, members would have to pass through the heart of the Deep South, states like Alabama and Georgia where white supremacy, segregation, and anti-Black violence were legally enshrined. This was the era of The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide which identified the all-too-rare hotels, restaurants, and other businesses where African Americans could safely stop during their travels cross-country. Even with the Green Book in hand, Black travelers still put themselves in immense danger travelling through unknown towns and cities in the Deep South.

Not all respondents to Sanford’s letter were opposed to a Miami Beach convention, however. Martin D. Jenkins supported the location, so long as the APA held true to the principles of its 1950 and 1952 resolutions:

Document 7: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 20. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4

Howard E. Wright agreed with Kapchan’s letter in his response, citing a Miami Beach convention as a “desirable social strategy”:

Document 8: See link at beginning of post.
1956, June 18. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

Yet perhaps the most stirring response to this matter came from Mary A. Morton:

Document 9: See link at beginning of post.
1956, July 2. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

You state in your letter that “The issues are almost paralyzing in their complexity.” For me, as an individual, the issues are simple: (1) Will Mary Morton feel secure in joining in any and all proposals for joint activity or will she have to wonder if the particular place involved will welcome her along with all others in the group? … If she is going to have to be concerned about things like these, she stays at home. … Conventions should be intellectually stimulating but they should also be relatively carefree.

… Miami Beach may really become an oasis in a desolate region for purposes of the 1957 meeting, but my acute awareness of how desolate is the region would prevent my enjoying any sojourn into the oasis. Local newspapers and radios would certainly be constant reminders that I was in hostile territory.

In her response, Morton clearly addressed the privilege of both Sanford and the APA’s Council of Representatives. They could easily distance themselves from the dangers of a segregated city, focusing largely upon high-minded principles and potential ideological victories. For Black psychologists like Morton, attending a Miami Beach convention meant putting themselves in “hostile territory,” risking their safety and the safety of their loved ones for the sake of a convention that could just as easily be held in a Northern city.

In June of 1956, a committee of four was assigned to visit Miami Beach to gather further information. Stuart W. Cook represented APA’s Board of Directors and chaired the committee, and was joined by psychologists Robert Kleemeier, Arthur Combs, and S. O. Roberts. Roberts had already voiced his opposition to a Miami Beach convention in no uncertain terms:

Document 10: See link at beginning of post.
1956, May 31. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron. Photo from the Robert V. Guthrie papers, Box M3533, Folder 4.

The committee carried out a review of dining facilities, hotels, recreational facilities, and transportation. They met with representatives from other organizations, including the American Library Association, who hosted integrated meetings in Miami Beach. In his final report, approved by the rest of the committee, Cook testified that the group encountered no instance of discriminatory behavior. Yet the group could not eliminate all possibility of discrimination, nor could they deny that many Black attendees would feel uncomfortable staying in Miami Beach due to the culture of the South. Cook concluded:

Document 11: See link at beginning of post.
1956, July 3. Stuart Cook papers, Box M2331, Folder 2, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, The University of Akron.

The 1957 Annual Convention of the APA was held in New York City from August 30th to September 5th. The convention would not be held in Miami Beach until 1970, six years after the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally prohibited discrimination on the basis of race.

The prolonged nature of this controversy and the responses of Black members of the APA highlight the tangible ways that marginalization can occur in psychology and other professional fields. In pushing for a Miami Beach convention as part of a “social strategy,” supporters of the location were not entirely misguided. All major civil rights movements in the United States have required their participants to assume some risk of personal harm. Yet it was largely white psychologists who concocted this social strategy, not the Black men and women who were asked to put themselves in harm’s way. Further, most of those Black psychologists were not seeking to take part in an act of defiance against Southern racism—rather, they were simply trying to participate in their professional community and attend a conference for the benefit of their careers and their field.

Had the 1957 APA Conference been held in Miami Beach, Black psychologists who rightly feared for their safety in the South would have been denied access to the largest psychological conference in the United States. The comments of these psychologists helped push the APA to remain true to the principles of racial equality and integration, yet the resolutions of 1950 and 1952 should have invalidated this controversy from the beginning. Circumstances such as these were far from the only systematic barriers faced by Black psychologists in the mid-20th century, but they clearly illustrate how well-meaning policies and resolutions could, and still do, overlook the complexities of racial injustice.


Additional materials on the 1957 APA Convention are available for research in the Stuart Cook papers at the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology. To request additional materials from these papers, please contact ahap@uakron.edu.

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contributed by Lizette Royer Barton.

In case you haven’t been following along, we’ve been been highlighting the first five women presidents of the American Psychological Association for a series in honor of Women’s History Month. Working in reverse order we’ve blogged about Florence Denmark and Leona Tyler.

Up next: Anne Anastasi.

Anne Anastasi (1908-2001) served as the third woman president of APA in 1972 – a full 50 YEARS after Margaret Floy Washburn, the second woman president of APA, served in 1921.

Anastasi started college at Barnard at 15-years-old. She earned her PhD from Columbia in just two years at 21-years-old. She chaired the psychology department at Queens College CUNY before she was 35 and she was a full professor at Fordham University in 1951 at the age of 43.

Anne Anastasi was a BOSS. As illustrated by this photograph.

Anne Anastasi, 1967, David P. Campbell Still Images collection

Anastasi is most well known for her work in psychological testing and the psychology of individual differences. The New York Times dubbed her the “Test Guru of Psychology” in her obituary. She wrote THE book on psychological testing, titling it simply Psychological Testing (1954).

The Anne Anastasi papers contain lot about testing and a lot of material from her time in various roles of APA governance. But you guys already know that about her so how about something else?

In 1936 Anastasi started a research project titled, “An Experimental Investigation of Artistic Behavior in the Insane.”

Anne Anastasi papers, box M4812, folder 3

In 1938 she applied for additional grant funding to continue the project. She asked for $3,800. They gave her $1,000 and she made it work.

Anne Anastasi papers, box M4812, folder 2

“Experimental Approaches to the Psychology of Art” included 4 angles from which to gather materials. Let’s take a closer look at angle 4.

The fourth angle was an “experimental investigation of the drawing behavior of insane patients under controlled conditions….” The patients were provided with crayons and paper and asked to draw: (1) a free choice drawing; (2) an abstract subject; (3) a concrete subject; and finally (4) to copy a sample design.

Here are the specific instructions the investigators used.

Anne Anastasi papers, box M4812, folder 7

The abstract subject was danger and the concrete subject was a man.

During the years Anastasi was working on this project alongside fellow psychologist (and husband) John P. Foley, there was a lot of interest in art done by patients with mental illness, specifically those in asylums. There was interest in art as a form of therapy and also interest in the public exhibition of art created by patients.

In fact, the Federal Art Project, a division of the the Works Progress Administration, held an exhibition titled, “Art and Psychopathology” in Harlem in 1938. The art exhibited was created by patients at Bellevue Hospital and speakers at the formal opening included staff from Bellevue, the WPA, and the Harlem Community Art Center.

Anne Anastasi papers, box M4812, folder 7

Following the research project, Anastai and Foley eventually wrote a manuscript titled, “Artistic Behavior in the Abnormal” complete with numerous full-color examples of patient art. I was so excited to learn that but as I dug through the folder I saw rejection letter after rejection letter. Every publisher said the same thing, the book would simply be “too expensive” with all of the full-color art. Anastasi and Foley published several articles about the research but to the best of my knowledge a large-scale full-color manuscript never came to be. What a bummer.

Anne Anastasi did so much in her long career. I cannot even begin to scratch the surface in a blog. I didn’t even mention her work in vocational guidance and culture-free testing (to which she said there was no such thing!).

Instead I’ll end with this.

In 1967 Anastasi was granted an honorary doctorate from the University of Windsor and at the convocation she presented a paper titled, “The Special Role of Psychology in a Liberal Education.”

Anne Anastasi papers, box M4822, folder 12

The purpose of the paper, I think, was to convey the importance of the scientific method and how psychology can teach that to a variety of students in a variety of ways. And while I did read the whole paper I just couldn’t get that first paragraph out of my head.

It stuck with me though likely not for the reasons Anne Anastasi may have wanted. In describing the field of psychology she also perfectly describes womanhood. Just sub the word “women” for psychology and you’ll see what I mean.

It is a curious paradox that society expects both too much and too little from psychology. One one hand, too much is expected in ways that are fanciful and unrealistic….On the other hand, too little is expected insofar as the genuine contributions that psychology can make to the development of responsible and effective members of society remain largely unrecognized.

Happy Women’s History Month, Dr. Anastasi.

Anne Anastasi, 1992. Donald Dewsbury Still Images collection, V118, folder 3

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contributed by Lizette Royer Barton.

If you read my last blog, Go with the Flo!, you’ll remember that I’m working backwards and highlighting the first five women presidents of the American Psychological Association for a series of blogs in honor of Women’s History Month.

Up next, Leona Tyler.

Check out this wonderful letter Edna Heidbreder sent to Tyler congratulating her on her election to APA President in 1971 (Tyler served as president in 1973).

Leona Tyler papers, box M415, folder 2

I confess that there is enough of the old-fashioned feminist in me to account for some of my pleasure, but not all of it! It is a satisfaction to know that your widely and highly respected contributions to the field have been recognized in this way.

Leona Tyler (1906-1993) is most well known for her work in counseling psychology and her research on individual differences and development. She did her graduate work at the University of Minnesota under Donald G. Paterson and her dissertation, an extension of research done for her master’s thesis, focused on the development of interests in adolescent girls.

Leona Tyler papers, box M412, folder “Written Works”

Most of us associate interest inventories with Edward K. Strong and the Strong Vocational Interest Inventory (SVI). The SVI was first published in 1927 – just for dudes – and an inventory for women wasn’t published until 1933.

Interestingly, higher level occupations weren’t included on the women’s version and women who seemed to lean more towards those occupations were simply given the men’s scale.

Like Leona.

Leona Tyler papers, box M415, folder 17

The best part is the little handwritten note at the bottom. Check this out.

“This norm is the male norm, there is no female norm.”

Well if that doesn’t just wrap up women’s history month in a nutshell!

As I went through Tyler’s papers I found so much good stuff.

Like this address she delivered in 1970 titled, “Counseling Girls and Women in the Year 2000.”

Leona Tyler papers, box M410, folder “Counseling Girls and Women”

One of the traits that most consistently shows up as feminine in research studies…is sensitivity to people….The main reason I should like to see greater equality of representation of women in politics and diplomacy is that I think these fields could use an infusion of this quality. If a larger proportion of the people in high level government positions were people who knew how to think about human individuals in all their concreteness rather than just as abstractions…I think we would all be better off.

Word, Leona Tyler. WORD!

And I love how she ends the talk. That last line works in all kinds of situations, “Let’s start right now.”

“Counseling Girls and Women in the Year 2000”

The right we must insist on above all others is the right to contribute….This is what counseling is all about, in 1970, in 2000, or in 2070. Let’s start right now.

Tyler spent her entire career at the University of Oregon, eventually being promoted to Dean of the Graduate School in 1965.

Thanks goodness Tyler saved the clippings around the announcement so we can all “enjoy” them during Women’s History Month in 2020.

Leona Tyler papers, box M409, folder “Graduate School Appointment”

She will become one of the few women in the nation to hold a major academic post in the graduate field….MISS Tyler, a silver-haired professor professor of psychology with a national reputation….

Leona Tyler papers, box M409, folder “Graduate School Appointment”

“…Those who know the most agree it is, to say the least, highly unusual that a woman would be named dean of a graduate school, especially at a coeducational university….Already a leader in a field where women do not often excel, MISS Tyler finders her appointment greeted with almost universal approval from her male colleagues.”

The dean is a lady. GASP!

Leona Tyler papers, box M409, folder “Graduate School Appointment”

Not until someone sent her a clipping from an out-of-town newspaper about another woman graduate dean (“only woman known to hold such a position”) had the though ever occurred to her. But it’s the position, not the woman, that’s important, she says.

Leona Tyler, an unmarried woman and leader in her field, was named the dean of the graduate school on June 1, 1965. But just before that was official the Eugene Register-Guard published the following piece on May 23, 1965.

Leona Tyler papers, box M409, folder “Graduate School Appointment”

A single woman may do as well as a man, but there may be some discrimination – usually indirect – against a married woman.

Indirect? Really? Check out the last couple of lines from this same newspaper article.

Welcome to the faculty club, ladies. We’ve come a long way, baby.

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Dr. John A. Popplestone, founder and original director of the Archives of the History of American Psychology passed away in Akron, Ohio on September 15, 2013.

Photograph taken by Rick Zaidan (1991)  for 'Akron Magazine'

Photograph taken by Rick Zaidan (1991) for ‘Akron Magazine’

Dr. Popplestone earned his doctoral degree in psychology from Washington University in 1958 and was a faculty member in the psychology department at The University of Akron from 1961 to 1999.

He and his wife, the late Dr. Marion White McPherson, established the Archives of the History of American Psychology in 1965 with support from The University of Akron.

He directed the Archives until his retirement in 1999.

Photo taken in 1992 upon receiving a plaque in Recognition of Exceptional Contributions to Research in History from the American Psychological Association

John A. Popplestone and Marion White McPherson with a plaque in Recognition of Exceptional Contributions to Research in History from the American Psychological Association (undated)

We in the history community owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Popplestone and Dr. McPherson. The Center has come a long way since John and Marion began collecting and storing psychology’s history in a small room in the university library. The Center has grown in ways that our early founders could not have anticipated and we are grateful for their early  foresight and perseverance.

John Popplestone, W. Horsley Gantt, and Bernard Weiss at the annual APA Meeting (1969)

John A. Popplestone, W. Horsley Gantt, and Bernard Weiss at the annual APA Meeting (1969)

Dr. Popplestone and and AHAP student assistant examine a tropostereoscope (undated)

John A. Popplestone and an AHAP student assistant examine a tropostereoscope (undated)

Marion White McPherson and John A. Popplestone in the AHAP Stacks (1992) Photograph by Rick Zaidan

Marion White McPherson and John A. Popplestone in the AHAP Stacks (1992)
Photograph by Rick Zaidan

Marion White McPherson, John A. Popplestone, Sharon Ochsenhirt, and Dorothy Gruich at the annual APA Meeting in ____

Marion White McPherson, John A. Popplestone, Sharon Ochsenhirt, and Dorothy Gruich at the annual APA Meeting in 1992

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