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Palo Alto University Honors Black Scholars for Black History Month

Black History Month is an annual commemoration dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating the achievements made by African Americans. It is also a time we can reflect on our nation’s history, gain a deeper understanding of African American struggles for freedom and equality, and to recognize their importance in U.S. history. 


February 2021 will mark the 95th year America celebrates Black History Month. This year, Palo Alto University would like to acknowledge historical and contemporary Black pioneers in psychology and counseling for their commitment, dedication, and contributions to their fields. 

Mamie and Kenneth Clark

Mamie and Kenneth Clark were American psychologists, educators and activists that made significant contributions to the field of social psychology and the Civil Rights movement. The Clarks were the first African Americans to obtain doctoral degrees from Columbia University in the 1940s. Their research was largely focused on the effects of racial biases in education. They were committed to promoting racial understanding and to combat prejudice early in children’s development. Their ground-breaking ”doll tests” provided evidence that school segregation had lasting effects on children’s self-perception and self-esteem. Their expertise allowed them to testify as expert witnesses in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that ruled public-school segregation unconstitutional.

Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy

Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy's life's work has been to eliminate educational disparities for underrepresented and historically disenfranchised populations. Her mission is to mitigate gaps in opportunities and to transform the educational experiences of youth who are impacted by policies that hinder their success. She is currently Dean and Professor of Education in the School of Education at American University in Washington, DC.  Dr. Holcomb-McCoy founded the university’s Summer Institute for Education, Equity and Justice (SIEEJ), a yearly institute designed for educators and education advocates who aim to ensure justice in education practice, research, and policies. Dr. Holcomb-McCoy also serves as the interim director of the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success. In 2009, she was awarded the Mary Smith Arnold Anti-Oppression Award at the American Counseling Association conference. Because of her expertise in college counseling, Holcomb-McCoy was selected to participate as a consultant to the Obama Administration's Reach Higher Initiative. In July 2014, she was one of the plenary speakers at the White House's Summit on Higher Education held at Harvard University.

Courtland Lee

Dr. Courtland Lee is a significant voice in the conversations shaping multicultural counseling. His involvement in several books on the subject continue to bring progress to counseling practices across cultural narratives. He has authored three books about counseling African American men and has focused much of his efforts on ethnic identity development and immigrant issues. By doing so he has shed light on under-represented and disadvantaged populations. Dr. Lee served as the past President of International Association for CounselingHe is a fellow of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, being the only American to receive this honorHe is now serving as an international counseling and education consultant.

Beverly Tatum

Dr. Beverly Tatum is a psychologist and educator who has spent her career focusing on the role of race in the classroom along with racial identity development. She is the former President of Spelman College, an historically black women's college. She is also the former acting president of Mount Holyoke College, where she served as a professor of psychology and education and later as chair of the department. Dr. Tatum is well respected for her research on racial identity development and is the author of the critically acclaimed book, "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race,which argues that racial identity is essential to the development of children. In 2014, the American Psychological Association presented Dr. Tatum with their highest honor, the Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology.