The prejudice and bias behind these stories are reflective of the very reason we need to dedicate time to recognize and celebrate Black history and why we should be vigilant to observe it. Furthermore, as history is made in the present, we should celebrate notable figures not only posthumously, but presently and proactively. Therefore, in honor of Black History Month, this article is dedicated to those contemporary psychologists that are making history through their daily work. Although we celebrate Black History Month during the shortest month of the year, there is certainly no shortage of incredible Black scientists making waves across the disciplines of psychology. Below, we have featured some of these contemporary, distinguished, and advancing Black social and personality psychologists who are innovating, enhancing, and representing excellence in the field.
“History is the sum total of what all of us do on a daily basis,” -- Margot Lee Shetterly (author of Hidden Figures)
Mesmin Destin, Ph.D.
Dr. Mesmin Destin is an Associate professor at Northwestern University in the School of Education and Social Policy and the Department of Psychology, as well as a fellow of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. He received his B.A. from Northwestern in Psychology and Sociology and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in Social Psychology. Dr. Destin directs a multidisciplinary lab group that investigates how social environments shape people’s identities and the consequences for motivation, behaviors, and trajectories in life, placing particular emphasis on understanding the ways that socioeconomic resources come to influence young people’s academic outcomes. Honors he has received include the William T. Grant Scholar Award (2016), the American Psychological Association Committee on Socioeconomic Status Emerging Leadership Award (2018), and the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology (2019).
Kristin Dukes, Ph.D.
Dr. Kristin Dukes was recently named the Dean for Institutional Diversity at Allegheny College. Previously she was an Associate Professor at Simmons where she was a member of the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Council, and played a substantial role in determining that college’s priorities and policies regarding equity and inclusion. Dr. Dukes earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rice University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in social psychology from Tufts University with a research focus on stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Her research also focuses on impression formation, intersectionality regarding race and gender, skin tone biases, obesity stigma, and attitudes toward substance use. She has been the recipient of several honors including being named a Featured Feminist Scientist by the Association for Women in Psychology.
Crystal Hall, Ph.D.
Dr. Crystal Hall is an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Governance at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. She holds a B.S. from Carnegie Mellon University in both Decision Science and Policy and Management as well as a Ph.D. and M.A. in Psychology from Princeton University. Dr. Hall has worked at government agencies at the local, state, and federal level – including having served as a Fellow on the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team and the Federal Office of Evaluation Sciences at the General Services Administration. She is also an Academic Affiliate of ideas42, and a Faculty Affiliate at both the University of Washington's West Coast Poverty Center (WCPC) and Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology (CSDE). Currently, her research explores decision making in the context of poverty, using the methods of social and cognitive psychology, along with behavioral economics. In addition to her scholarly work, Hall has provided guidance and training to community organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies seeking to implement tools from psychology and behavioral economics into the design and delivery of their programs and services.
Lasana Harris, Ph.D.
Dr. Lasana Harris is currently a Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at University College London. He completed his undergraduate education at Howard University in 2003 before earning his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2007, under the supervision of Dr. Susan Fiske. He completed his post-doctorate research at New York University with Dr. Elizabeth Phelps in 2010, and has held faculty positions at both Duke University and Leiden University. He has published in top journals such as Psychological Science
, and Nature
. Dr. Harris’ research uses an interdisciplinary social neuroscience approach to explore the neural correlates of person perception, prejudice, dehumanization, anthropomorphism, social learning, social emotions, empathy, and punishment. This work explores social, legal and economic decision making, how people fail to consider other people’s minds, and extending minds to things that don’t have them.
Marlone D. Henderson, Ph.D.
Dr. Henderson, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin. He received his B.S. from Michigan State University (1999), and his Ph.D. from New York University in (2006). Throughout his career, his research has explored social conflict, social judgments, prosocial behavior, and the role that basic cognitive processes play in promoting social harmony. Dr. Henderson has received various honors such as election to the Society for Experimental Social Psychology (2012) and the Stuart Cook Award for Excellence in Research in Social Psychology (2006) as well as being funded by groups such as the National Science Foundation and the Raikes Foundation. Additionally, he currently serves as one of the Associate Editors for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Keith Maddox, Ph.D.
Dr. Keith Maddox is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Tufts University. He received his A.B. (1991) in psychology from the University of Michigan, and his M.A. (1994) and Ph.D. (1998) in social psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. At Tufts, he is the director of the Tufts University Social Cognition Lab which broadly explores the social cognitive aspects of stereotyping, prejudice. He has published widely on topics like skin tone bias, racial and spatial categories in memory, confronting bias, and facilitating interracial dialogue. Dr. Maddox is the recipient of a number of grants and awards, including grants from the National Science Foundation, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, an SPSP Distinguished Service Award, and the Gerald R. Gill Distinguished Service Award from Tufts University.
Valerie Purdie Greenaway, Ph.D.
Dr. Valerie Purdie Greenaway is an Associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University, core faculty for the Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars Program (RWJ Columbia-site), and research fellow at the Institute for Research on African-American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia. She completed her undergraduate work at Columbia University and went on to earn her Ph.D. at Stanford University as a student of Dr. Claude Steele. At Columbia, Dr. Purdie Greenaway also serves as Director for the Laboratory of Intergroup Relations and the Social Mind (LIRSM) where her research examines social identity threats and interventions, identity, politics, and power, the psychology of invisibility, and neurobiology and intergroup relations. She has earned grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Russell Sage Foundation, Spencer Foundation, and William T. Grant Foundation and has been the recipient of awards such as the Columbia University RISE (Research Initiative in Science and Engineering) award and Society for Personality and Social Psychology Cialdini Award.
Phia Salter Ph.D.
Dr. Salter is an Associate professor at Texas A&M University with a dual appointment in Interdisciplinary Critical Studies (Africana Studies Program) and Psychological & Brain Sciences (Social & Personality Psychology; Diversity Science Cluster). She earned her B.S. from Davidson College and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Kansas. Dr. Salter also directs her lab, the Culture in Mind Research Collaboratory (CMRC) which explores the various ways in which critical cultural-psychological perspectives can illuminate the social and cultural underpinnings of mind with a special focus on racism and oppression, collective memory (representations of history), self and identity, interpersonal and intergroup relationships, and academic achievement. Her research has been funded by groups such as the National Science Foundation and the Clara Mayo Grant Program.
Keon West, Ph.D.
Dr. Keon West is a Reader in Social Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London where he is the director of Equalab. He is also a council member for the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and an editorial board member for the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Dr. West earned his B.A. in French and Psychology at Macalester College and his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 2010. Following this, he was a post-doctoral research fellow at University of Leeds and then a lecturer at University Roehampton before coming to Goldsmiths. His research covers topics such as gender roles, sexism, anti-LGBT prejudice, and specific prejudice-reducing interventions and has been featured in popular media outlets such as the BBC World Service, Radio4, Channel 4, and the Guardian. Recently he was honored with the Michele Alexander Award for Scholarship and Service (2015), the SPSSI Award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring (2017), and a European Council Starting Grant (€7460,000). He has also been the recipient of grant funding from organizations such as The European Research Council, the Richard Benjamin Trust, AIDS-Free World, and the Independent Social Research Fund.
Tiffany Brannon, Ph.D.
Dr. Tiffany N. Brannon is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Los Angles and is the director of the Culture and Contact Lab. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Social Psychology from Stanford University and her B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University. Her research examines socio-cultural identities in negatively stereotyped groups such as African Americans and Latina/o/x Americans; and she investigates the potential for these identities to serve as a psychological resource — one that can facilitate a variety of individual and intergroup benefits. Dr. Brannon’s work has been featured in top journals such as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, Psychological Science
, and Social Issues and Policy Review
. She is on the editorial board for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, Frontiers in Psychology
, and is a founding columnist for the Behavioral Scientist
, as well as an elected council member for the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). Furthermore, she is a Hellman Fellow, inaugural recipient of the UCLA Undergraduate Research Week Faculty Mentor award, and winner of the Emerging Implicit Bias Scholar Award from the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University.
Cydney Dupree, Ph.D.
Dr. Cydney Dupree is an Assistant professor of Organizational Business at Yale University in the School of Management. She received her undergraduate degree from Brown University in psychology and went on to earn to her M.A. and Ph.D. at Princeton University in Psychology and Social Policy. Her current lines of research aim to investigate how socio-political attitudes and stereotypes influence verbal and nonverbal outgroup behavior, how associations between race and status influence occupational preferences, and how situational and individual factors influence prosocial outgroup behavior. Her work has appeared in leading psychology and multi-disciplinary journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, and Current Opinion in Psychology
as well as popular press outlets such as the Washington Post
and Business Insider
Sarah E. Gaither
Dr. Sarah Gaither is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience and a faculty affiliate at the Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University. Prior to Duke, she was a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the Psychology Department and Fellow at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. She earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in Social Psychology from Tufts University and her B.A. in Social Welfare from U.C Berkeley. Her research explores how a person’s social identities and experiences across the lifespan motivate their social perceptions and behaviors in diverse settings. Her work has been featured in top journals such as Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Journal of Social Issues. Dr. Gaither has been funded by groups such as Clara Mayo, National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, Russell Sage, and the Spencer Foundation, and has been named a rising star by the APS. Additionally, she currently serves as a guest editor for Self & Identity's upcoming special issue on non-traditional identities
Lori Hoggard, Ph.D.
Lori Hoggard is an Assistant Professor of the Social Psychology area and an affiliate of the Health Psychology program at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She received her B.A. from Brooklyn College City University of New York (CUNY) and her Ph.D. in Personality & Social Contexts Psychology from the University of Michigan. Thereafter, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and at the Center for Health Equity Research within the Department of Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Rutgers, she is the director of the Racism, Identity, Coping, and Health Lab and her research focuses on racial discrimination as a chronic psychosocial stressor that heightens African Americans’ risk for physical (e.g., cardiovascular disease) and mental (e.g., depression and anxiety) health concerns. She has been the recipient of honors from organizations like the Ford Fellowship and has received funding from the National Science Foundation.
India Johnson, Ph.D.
Dr. India Johnson is currently an assistant professor at Elon University but will be joining the department of psychology at Butler University in the fall of this year. She earned her B.A. from Purdue University (Indianapolis) and her M.A. and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. Dr. Johnson's research focuses on issues relevant to stereotyping, prejudice, and persuasion. In her current lines of work, she is investigating how role models framed or endorsed as allies, can increase women and women of color's (i.e. Black women) feelings of belonging and trust in STEM environments, and how to create more inclusive environments for individuals belonging to underrepresented groups (URG) often associated with negative stereotypes. Additionally, she is the founder and principal consultant at EVOLVE Diversity Consulting Services, where she is dedicated to helping others support and cultivate diversity through the practice of inclusion.
Valerie Jones Taylor, Ph.D.
Dr. Valerie Jones Taylor is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Africana Studies at Lehigh University. She received her B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. from Stanford University, and has previously held an appointment as an Assistant Professor at Spelman College. Currently, her research examines how people engage in interracial interactions—what makes them go well, and the factors that may make them fall apart. While research has shown the benefits of intergroup contact, greater contact among individuals with different social identities creates opportunities for social identity threat—the concern or worry that one may be treated or judged negatively based on one’s social group membership. Addressing this issue across several lines of research, Dr. Taylor seeks to answer various identity-related questions, particularly how people engage in interracial interactions when negative group stereotypes are salient. Finally, Dr. Taylor has been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation, and published in a number of journals including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
, and Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Neil Lewis Jr., Ph.D.
Dr. Neil Lewis, Jr. is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Social Behavior at Cornell University, and Assistant Professor of Communication Research in Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. Additionally, he is a Faculty Fellow of the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, and Faculty Affiliate of the Cornell Behavioral Economics and Decision Research Center, Center for Health Equity, Center for the Study of Inequality, and Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. Dr. Lewis earned his B.A. in Economics and Psychology at Cornell University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology at the University of Michigan. His research examines how the interplay between people’s identities and social contexts influence people’s motivation to pursue their goals, and their success in goal pursuit efforts. Lewis is one of the authors of Science
Magazine’s “Letters To Young Scientists” column and is on the Editorial Boards of Perspectives on Psychological Science
and Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy
. He previously co-edited the Michigan Journal of Sustainability
and a special issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Sylvia Perry, Ph.D.
Dr. Sylvia Perry is an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University. She completed her bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas (2002), and she received her master's (2006) and doctorate (2010) in Social Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was mentored by Drs. Linda Skitka and Mary Murphy. Additionally, Dr. Perry was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral associate at Yale University from 2010-2014 under the advisement of Drs. John Dovidio and Michelle van Ryn (Mayo Clinic) and held an appointment as an Assistant Professor of Psychological Science at the University of Vermont (UVM) from 2014 - 2016. Currently at Northwestern, she is the Principal Investigator of the Social Cognition and Intergroup Processes (SCIP) Lab investigating how bias awareness develops, and the implications of bias awareness for prejudice reduction, intergroup contact, and health disparities. Dr. Perry’s work has been featured in journals such as the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
, Social Science & Medicine
, and the Journal of Research in Personality
, and she has been funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shrive National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Jason Okonofua, Ph.D.
Dr. Jason Okonofua is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his B.A. in psychology and African American studies from Northwestern University and his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University. Dr. Okonofua’s work spans contexts such as education, criminal justice, and business as he investigates the ways negative stereotypes can contribute to inequality in these context and how that process can be dismantled. Recently he was the recipient of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Cialdini Award. Furthermore, his work has been featured in top journals like Psychological Science
and mainstream media outlets like MSNBC, PBS NewsHour
, Huffington Post
, the New York Times
, and the Wall Street Journal
Clara Wilkins, Ph.D.
Dr. Clara L. Wilkins is an Assistant Professor in the department of Brain and Psychological Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. She completed her Ph.D. and M.S. at the University of Washington and her B.A. with honors at Stanford University. As a fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, she serves on several editorial boards including the Journal of Personality and Social Psycholog
y and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
. Dr. Wilkins’ research examines prejudice, stereotyping, and the self and how social change (e.g. racial and gender progress) affects high-status groups’ perceptions of victimization. She also examines how variation in racial and ethnic minorities’ physical appearance shapes stereotyping and identification. The over-arching goal of her work is to understand social inequities in order to minimize their negative effects on individuals, groups and society.