Psychiatry and Racial Liberalism in Harlem, 1936-1968

Psychiatry and Racial Liberalism in Harlem, 1936-1968

Dennis A. Doyle

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Reveals the history of the individuals who worked to make psychiatry more available to Harlem's black community in the early Civil Rights Era.
Toward the middle of the twentieth century, African Americans in New York City began to receive increased access to mental health care in some facilities within the city's mental health system. This study documents how and why this important change in public health-and in public opinion on race-occurred. Drawing on records from New York's children's courts, Harlem's public schools, Columbia University, and the Department of Hospitals, Dennis Doyle tells here the story of the American psychiatrists and civil servants who helped codify in New York's mental health policies the view that blacks and whites are psychological equals. The book examines in particular the events through which these racial liberals working in Harlem gained a foothold within New York's public institutions, creating inclusive public policies and ostensibly race-neutral standards of care. Psychiatry and Racial Liberalism in Harlem, 1936-1968 not only contributes to the growing body of historiography on race and medical institutions in the civil rights era but, more importantly, shows how inveterate racial prejudices within public policy can be overcome.

Dennis A. Doyle is assistant professor of history at the Saint Louis College of Pharmacy.

Table of Contents

Before Racial Liberalism: Depression-Era Harlem and Psychiatry, 1936
Everyone's Children: Psychiatry and Racial Liberalism in Justine Wise Polier's Courtroom, 1936-41
Psychiatry Goes to School: Child Guidance and the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, 1940-42
Psychiatry for Harlem: Wartime Activism and the Black Community's Mental Health Needs, 1942-45
The Quiet One: Racial Representation in Popular Media and Psychiatric Literature, 1942-53
Psychiatry Comes to Harlem Hospital: Community Psychiatry ,Aftercare, and Columbia University, 1947-62
The Limits of Racial Liberalism: Harlem Hospital and the Black Community, 1963-68


Meticulously researched. . . . Doyle's work is a historiography of midcentury psychiatry's struggles with race embedded in the history of the conservatism of the Cold War and the struggle for civil rights in New York City. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division medical humanities and graduate collections. CHOICE

Fascinating . . . Psychiatry and Racial Liberalism in Harlem is copiously researched, is nuanced in its historical analysis and offers a well-crafted narrative. . . . It is critical reading for anyone interested in the historic relationship between psychiatry, mental health disparities, mass incarceration and twentieth-century civil rights activism. MEDICAL HISTORY

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