Joseph L. White, professor emeritus
Pioneering psychologist and social activist Joseph L. White – affectionately referred to as the “godfather of black psychology” by students, mentees and colleagues – died Nov. 21 at the age of 84.
In 1961, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Michigan State University. At the height of the civil rights movement, White emerged as a powerful voice of change, challenging psychologists to better understand the unique experiences of ethnic minorities.
In 1968, he helped found the Association of Black Psychologists. And his seminal article in Ebony magazine in 1970, “Toward a Black Psychology,” was instrumental in launching the modern era of African American and ethnic psychology.
“Throughout his life, Dr. Joseph L. White has stood on the side of social justice and directed his psychological and academic endeavors with visions of hope and possibility for transforming dark yesterdays into brighter tomorrows,” said Thomas A. Parham, vice chancellor for student affairs at UCI, where White served as a professor of psychology and psychiatry since 1969. “He taught us with his heart and soul, he mentored us, he nurtured us and he guided us, because that is part of the culture he helped create.”