Featured Psychologist: Albert Sidney Beckham, PhD
Albert Sidney Beckham, PhD, is known as the first African-American to hold the title of school psychologist. He received his bachelor's degree in psychology from Lincoln University under the supervision of Francis Sumner. After graduating, he went on to receive a master's degree from Ohio State University. As he advanced his education, Beckham also had a desire to serve his country by joining the military. He served his military duties as a war professor of psychology at Wilberforce University. After the completion of his duties, he moved to New York City to begin his doctoral study in psychology. However, his doctoral studies were interrupted when he was offered a teaching position at Howard University.
Beckham became the first professor to teach psychology at Howard University. In fact, he taught all the psychology courses at Howard. He also established the first psychological laboratory on campus, which provided counseling, intelligence testing and consultations. Although his time was well spent at Howard University, he eventually moved back to New York and completed his doctoral degree at New York University in educational psychology.
As a distinguished professor of psychology, Beckham left New York to accept a position at the Institute of Juvenile Research in Illinois. At the institute, Beckham treated childhood disorders, administered vocational and educational tests in the areas of reading and math, provided in-service training to teachers and conducted mental health assessments of children. Beckham met Ruth Winifred Howard, a distinguished scholar and psychologist in her own right who became his wife. Eventually, they started a private practice. In addition to that practice, Beckham pursued other interests and became a school psychologist working for the Chicago public schools.
As a school psychologist for over three decades, Beckham contributed significantly to the field of psychology as a visionary, prolific writer and researcher. He not only established the first psychological clinics in a public school at DuSable High School, but he also published over 20 articles on the effect of counseling on high school students, childhood behavioral problems, intelligence testing and life satisfaction. His contributions and lifelong career deserve to be recognized and honored by all psychologists.
Graves, S. (2009). Albert Sidney Beckham: The first African American school psychologist. School Psychology International, 30 , 5–23.
Upchurch, D., Graves, S., & Narai, A. (2013). Saluting Multicultural Trailblazers in School Psychology: Albert Sidney Beckham. NASP Communiqué, 42 (4).