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Profile of Inez Beverly Prosser - The first Black female Psychology PhD in the USA

Inez Beverly Prosser, PhD, (1895-1934), was the first Black, (African-American), woman to have earned a PhD in Psychology in 1933 in the United States of America. Having lived what some would consider a short life, (approximately 38 years), Dr. Posser died in a motor vehicle accident. Her birth date, though not exactly known, is recorded as December 30, 1895 in San Marcos, Texas, United States of America.

It is said that her parents, who thought they could only afford to send one of their eleven children to college, planned to send her brother Leon, but he and Inez convinced them to send her instead. It was an investment that reaped dividends as she later assisted five of her siblings to gain higher education through an education fund which she started. She acquired her early education in Texas and despite facing the significant obstacles of racism and sexism, her academic achievements were impressive. Prosser graduated at the top of her class from both her high school and Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College. Because of segregation in schools, she had to relocate to receive graduate training. She read for her Masters degree at the University of Colorado and obtained her Doctorate in Psychology at the University of Cincinnati in 1933.

Her dissertation research, titled The Non-Academic Development of Negro Children in Mixed and Segregated Schools,examined self-esteem and personality variables in matched pairs of African-American middle-school children, with half the children having attended segregated schools and the other half attending integrated schools in the Cincinnati area. She concluded that Black children fared better in segregated schools with Black classmates and Black teachers. Specifically, she found that Black children from integrated schools experienced more social maladjustment, felt less secure in their social relations, and had less satisfactory relationships with their families. They were also more likely to feel inferior at school, had less satisfactory relationships with their teachers and were more eager to leave school early.

Yvette Boucher is an Associate Counselling Psychologist and member of the Executive Committee of the Jamaican Psychological Society. She specializes in grief and trauma counselling and can be contacted at


America's first black female psychologist. (n.d.). American Psychological Association.

Inez Beverly Prosser Biography (n.d.). Inez Beverly Prosser Biography.

Elevating Science Identity in STEM classrooms (n.d.). Psychologists Spotlights.


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