Paying Tribute To Black Pioneers in Mental Health


During Black History Month we want to join Mental Health America in celebrating and paying tribute to the Black pioneers in Mental Health. These are just a few of the countless mental health professionals who have shared our mission of helping the children and families in our communities.

​​​​​​​Mamie Phipps Clark, Ph.D., and Kenneth Bancroft Clark, Ph.D.

Mamie Phipps Clark, Ph.D., and Kenneth Bancroft Clark, Ph.D., conducted groundbreaking research on the psychologically harmful effects of school segregation on Black children. Their testimony before the Supreme Court contributed to victory in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case that desegregated American public schools.

James P. Comer, M.D., M.P.H

James P. Comer, M.D., M.P.H., is the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut. He is known nationally and internationally for his creation of the Comer School Development Program in 1968 within Yale University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Comer has focused his career on improving school restructuring and has been featured in numerous newspaper, magazine, and television reports, while also having several articles published in academic journals. He is a co-founder and past president of the Black Psychiatrists of America. Dr. Comer is the recipient of countless recognitions and holds over forty-eight honorary degrees. In 2014, Dr. Comer received a prestigious nomination by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

Jacki McKinney, M.S.W.

Jacki McKinney, M.S.W., was a survivor of trauma, addiction, homelessness, and the psychiatric and criminal justice systems. She was a family advocate specializing in issues affecting African American women and their children and is a founding member of the National People of Color Consumer/Survivor Network. Ms. McKinney was a consultant and advisor to the Center for Mental Health Services and is well known for her moving presentations to national audiences on issues such as seclusion/restraint, intergenerational family support, and minority issues in public mental health. Additionally, Ms. McKinney was a proud recipient of Mental Health America’s highest honor, the Clifford W. Beers Award, presented to a consumer of mental health and/or substance abuse services who best reflects the example set by Beers in his efforts to improve conditions for, and attitudes toward, people with mental illnesses. She was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’s Voice Awards program which was presented to her for her distinguished leadership and advocacy on behalf of trauma survivors.

You can find the full list at Black Pioneers in Mental Health at Mental Health America. This non-exhaustive list of trailblazers only scratches the surface of the brave folks who broke barriers to help children in need. Their hard work and dedication give us hope and inspiration to keep their vision moving forward.