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George White

psychiatrist, educational reformer, and author. Born to working-class parents during the Great Depression, James Pierpont Comer became a world-renowned child psychiatrist. He spent his childhood in East Chicago, Indiana, but then traveled to the East Coast and did work at some of America's most prestigious academic institutions. By the early twenty-first century he stood as an intellectual pioneer and an advocate for disadvantaged children.

Comer's parents lacked extensive formal education, and both worked outside the home—his father as a laborer at a steel mill and his mother as a domestic. Yet they created an environment that cultivated self-esteem, confidence, and high academic achievement for James and his siblings. After completing high school in 1952, Comer attended and graduated from Indiana University, but his negative experiences in Bloomington encouraged him to attend medical school elsewhere. He earned his MD in 1960 from Howard University and a ...

Article

Carolyn Vellenga Berman

was born on 20 July 1925 in Fort-de-France, capital of Martinique, then a French colony in the Antilles. He was the fifth of eight children in a middle-class family. His father, Félix Casimir Fanon, who worked in French customs, was the descendant of an affranchi, an individual emancipated before the definitive abolition of French colonial slavery in 1848. His mother, Eléanore Médélice, a shop owner, was proud of her mixed ancestry, including Austrians who had immigrated to Alsace, France. Although Fanon’s parents spoke Martinican Creole, his education was only in French. He read widely at the local library and attended the Lycée Schoelcher, an elite school in Fort-de-France. One of his French teachers was Aimé Césaire, the author of Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, 1939 a seminal poem for the proponents of Negritude and a searching exploration of ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter, figure skater, and psychiatrist, was born in New York City. His father, Billy Williams, was the lead singer in Billy Williams and the Charioteers, while his mother was a dancer who was one of the Brown Twins at the Cotton Club. She danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers and can be seen in the Fats Waller short film of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” sitting on the piano while he sang to her. After Billy Williams's death, Henderson's mother married a doctor in San Francisco. His stepfather had many musician patients, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington.

Henderson began on the trumpet when he was nine. His first teacher was Louis Armstrong who gave him a few informal lessons Henderson moved to San Francisco with his family when he was 14 He studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of ...

Article

Justin David Gifford

forensic psychiatrist, novelist, and filmmaker, was born in Washington, D.C., to Devonia Jefferson, a teacher and playwright, and Bernard Jefferson, a judge. At an early age, Jefferson moved with his family to Los Angeles where he attended integrated public schools. Raised in a family that discouraged him from pursing a career as a writer, Jefferson studied anthropology in college, earning his BA from the University of Southern California in 1961. In 1965 Jefferson earned his MD from Howard University and became a practicing physician in Los Angeles. In 1966, he married a teacher named Melanie L. Moore, with whom he would eventually have four children, Roland Jr., Rodney, Shannon, and Royce. Between 1969 and 1971 he served as a captain and psychiatrist at Lockborne Air Force Base in Columbus Ohio It was during this time that he ...

Article

Willie Hobbs

psychiatrist, author, and educator, was born in the East Harlem section of New York City, the seventh of eight children of Christopher Poussaint, a typographer and printer, and Harriet Johnston Poussaint, a homemaker. At the age of nine, Poussaint was stricken with rheumatic fever. A lengthy convalescence forced him to take up reading and avoid most of the physical activities that other children his age would normally participate in. But it was his love of reading that flourished during this time and fueled his academic prowess. His thirst for knowledge carried into extracurricular activities, where he taught himself how to play the clarinet, the saxophone, and flute.

Poussaint graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1952. He immediately went on to attend Columbia University as a premedical student with a concentration in French, and he graduated in 1956 In medical school Poussaint chose to ...