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African American Sociology, Psychology, History Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2020


One of the clearest indications that, as time goes, African-Americans grow increasingly empowered (in the socio-economic sense of this word), can be deemed the rise Black Sociology and Black Psychology, as the scientific sub-domains of their own. The reason for this is apparent – being reflective of the fact Black people remain on the path of intellectual advancement, the concerned development also suggests that they have become thoroughly integrated into the society. There is, however, even more to it – the emergence of these sub-domains was predetermined dialectically, as an alternative to the discourse of Eurocentrism, which up until comparatively recent times used to have a strong effect on both scientific disciplines. What it means is that contrary to what it is commonly assumed, the discursive significance of Black Sociology and Black Psychology is not solely concerned with the socio-economic liberation of African-Americans. Rather, it has to do with the ongoing progress in the field of empirical science, which in turn causes more and people to doubt the appropriateness of the Eurocentric (positivist) approach to addressing the issues of sociological/psychological importance. This paper will seek to substantiate the validity of the above-stated suggestion at length.

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The emergence of Black Sociology is now commonly discussed as such that has been brought about by the writings of Anna J. Cooper (1858 –1964), W. E. B. Du Bois (1868 – 1963), Edward Frazier (1894 – 1962), and St. Clair Drake (1911 – 1990). The reason for this is that being among the first fully credited Black social scientists, these individuals never ceased promoting a highly systemic (communal) outlook on the role of African-Americans in constructing the discourse Americana. In its turn, this outlook reflected the idea that the sense of existential self-identity in Black people cannot be discussed as a ‘thing in itself’, outside of whatever happen to be the affecting social, cultural, and economic circumstances. What this means is that the goal of establishing preconditions for African-Americans to be able to attain social prominence in this country is closely interconnected with the objective of ensuring the steady pace of socio-cultural and scientific progress in America. In this respect, the intellectual legacy of Du Bois stands out especially notable – not the least because it correlates with the latest sociological findings of what accounts for the significance of one’s racial identity.

Even though most famous writings were published in the early 1900s, the insights into the actual meaning of the notion of ‘race’, contained in them, remain fully legitimate even today. In particular, Du Bois needs to be given credit for having succeeded in arguing that there is nothing biologically intrinsic about the behavioral patterns of African-Americans and that their so-called ‘racial phenotype’ is best discussed in terms of a social construct. As Young and Deskins (2011) noted, “DuBois maintained that race was an identity construct foisted upon the individual by the external social world, thus circumscribing how the public read and reacted to individuals” (p. 452). It is understood, of course, that this contributed rather substantially towards exposing the sheer fallaciousness of racial prejudices, held against African-Americans by White people.

Because of the mentioned individuals, it was becoming increasingly clear to the rest of social scientists that there is a phenomenological quality to the race-related issues in America and that the normative (Eurocentric) terms do not quite apply when it comes to discussing what has been traditionally referred to as ‘Black inadequacies’. This, of course, had a strong effect on mainstream sociology at the time, in the sense of riding its methodological apparatus of the innately racist axiomatic. As Pratt-Clarke (2014) pointed out, “Mainstream sociology tended to focus on social control and a gradual change in race relations… and assigned responsibility to the oppressed for their own oppression, rather than to the effects of institutional racism and classism” (p. 218). Following the emergence of Black Sociology, however, it because quite clear such ‘inadequacies’ are produced by the very social context, within which they proliferate. In its turn, this development has helped to legitimize the cause of the Civil Rights movement even further – hence, setting the US on the path of becoming a multicultural/racially egalitarian country.

Essentially the same can be said about the cathartic effect of Black Psychology on defining the discursive realities of a contemporary living in the US. After all, it was namely the intellectual legacy of such famous African-American psychologists as Kenneth Clark (1914-2005), Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983), and Francis Sumner (1895-1954), which made possible the legitimization of the so-called ‘culturally sensitive’ and ‘person-centered’ approaches to counseling. These psychologists were among the first ones to promote the idea that the successfulness of a particular psychotherapy positively relates to the measure of its consistency with the patient’s culturally predetermined unconscious anxieties, reflected by the manner in which he or she perceives the surrounding social reality and its place in it. It was determined that African-Americans are predisposed to adhere to the ‘holistic’ existential values – hence, these people’s strongly defined communal-mindedness and their respect of ancestral traditions/rituals.

Therefore, there is nothing surprising about the act that Black Psychology is strongly ‘holistic’, as well, “The Black psychology/Afrocentric perspective… involves seven primary concepts: improvisation, resilience, transcendence of tragedy, connectedness to others, spirituality, valuing of direct experience, and emotional vitality” (Holliday, 2009, p. 333). Unlike what it is the case with White psychoanalysts, for example, African-American practitioners of the ‘person-centered’ counseling model do not seek out to identify the ‘abnormal’ aspects in a patient’s behavior. Rather, they are there to help him or her to become emotionally comfortable with exploring the hidden potencies of its endowment with the identity of an African-American, “The essential value of the African Psychological system is the centrality of the human being… [with] a Divine Creator as the originator and sustainer of man” (p. 333). Thus, the notion ‘Black Psychology’ can be considered synonymous with the notion ‘humanness’ – something that serves as yet another reason to think that it is well consistent with the multicultural realities in the 21st century’s America.


In light of what has been said earlier, this paper’s initial thesis appears thoroughly valid. Apparently, there is indeed much rationale in assuming that the emergence of Black Sociology and Black Psychology correlated rather well with the overall logic of historical progress. This simply could not be otherwise – the concerned process results in the Eurocentric (normative) assumptions about the society’s functioning becoming increasingly outdated. The same can be said about this progress’s effect on the Eurocentric paradigm in psychology. As time goes on, the deployed counseling-strategies grow ever more person-centered/culturally sound – the involvement of Black psychologists in bringing about this development can hardly be underestimated.


Holliday. B. (2009). . Web.

Pratt-Clarke, M. (2014). Building a foundation for Africana sociology: Black sociology, Afrocentricity, and transdisciplinary applied social justice. Web.

Young, A. & Deskins, D. (2001). . Web.

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