Featured Psychologist: Robert V. Guthrie, PhD

Robert V. Guthrie, PhDRobert V. Guthrie, PhD, was born on Feb. 14, 1932, in Chicago. Shortly after his birth, the Guthrie family quickly moved to Kentucky so his father could take a job as a school principal. Robert Guthrie’s childhood in the segregated south eventually shaped his contributions to the field of psychology, by shedding light on the contributions of African-American scholars, which is often ignored in a segregated and racist society. In 1948, he attended Florida A&M University, but his studies were interrupted due to him signing up for the draft.

After signing up for the draft, he was stationed at Sampson Air Force Base in upstate New York and was sent for a brief stay to Korea, during the Korean War. When he returned from the war, he took up his studies once again at Florida A&M University. He went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and then earned a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. He later returned to the Air Force to serve as a staff sergeant in Canada.

His career in the Air Force was well spent, and upon his discharge, he became a teacher at San Diego High School, Memorial Junior High and San Diego Mesa College. He became the first African-American professor at San Diego Mesa College and a founding member of the Association of Black Psychologists. Guthrie would eventually return to school to earn his doctorate in psychology in 1970 at U.S. International University. The next year, he moved to Pittsburgh to accept a post as an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. After a short stay in Pittsburgh he left to become a research psychologist for the National Institute of Education in Washington, D.C. His career was marked with many promotions, leading him to become the associate director of the psychological sciences division of the Office of Naval Research which brought him back to San Diego.

In 1976, Dr. Guthrie penned his seminal book, "Even the Rat Was White: A Historical View of Psychology," which illuminated the contributions of pioneering black psychologists while challenging racial stereotypes in and out of the field of psychology. In 2001, he was the first black psychologist to deposit his papers in the National Archives of American Psychology. Guthrie's last academic appointment was at Southern Illinois University, where he taught applied experimental psychology and served as chairman of Black American Studies until 1997. An updated version of "Even the Rat Was White" was released in 1998 by Allyn & Bacon.


O’Connor, E. (2001).  An American psychologistAPA Monitor® 32 (10).  Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov01/american.aspx

Williams, J. (2005, September 12).  Robert V. Guthrie, 75; Noted psychology educatorUnion Tribune, Retrieved from: http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20051112/news_1m12guthrie.html