Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South

Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South

ANNE C. ROSE
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807894095_rose
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    Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South
    Book Description:

    In the American South at the turn of the twentieth century, the legal segregation of the races and psychological sciences focused on selfhood emerged simultaneously. The two developments presented conflicting views of human nature. American psychiatry and psychology were optimistic about personality growth guided by the new mental sciences. Segregation, in contrast, placed racial traits said to be natural and fixed at the forefront of identity. In a society built on racial differences, raising questions about human potential, as psychology did, was unsettling.As Anne Rose lays out with sophistication and nuance, the introduction of psychological thinking into the Jim Crow South produced neither a clear victory for racial equality nor a single-minded defense of traditional ways. Instead, professionals of both races treated the mind-set of segregation as a hazardous subject.Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated Southexamines the tensions stirred by mental science and restrained by southern custom.Rose highlights the role of southern black intellectuals who embraced psychological theories as an instrument of reform; their white counterparts, who proved wary of examining the mind; and northerners eager to change the South by means of science. She argues that although psychology and psychiatry took root as academic disciplines, all these practitioners were reluctant to turn the sciences of the mind to the subject of race relations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0563-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION THE PURSUIT OF SELFHOOD IN THE SEGREGATED SOUTH
    (pp. 1-16)

    The sciences of the mind arguably served Western culture in the twentieth century as the chosen means of self-knowledge. Inquiries into human nature stretching back to the Bible, filled with insights about motivation and behavior, bore a kinship to modern psychology, and beginning with the Enlightenment, philosophical debates about cognition and scientific investigations of racial temperaments offered secular terms for reflection about identity as well. These enduring conversations converged around 1900 in a fascination with the self, newly conceived. This person was individualized and indeterminate. Not wholly fixed by a God-given or racial nature, every human being seemed to possess...

  5. 1 HOW SOUTHERNERS THOUGHT ABOUT THE MIND AND ITS ILLS BEFORE PSYCHOLOGY
    (pp. 17-50)

    Veterans Administration Hospital no. 91, opened in 1923 on land sold to the government by Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, was the first American facility where black psychiatrists cared for black mental patients. Nearly 400,000 African American soldiers had served in World War I, and about half of the more than 350 patients in residence at the hospital by mid-1924 were “suffering,” according to an official report, “with nervous and mental diseases.”¹ There was no discussion of mental illness, however, during the turmoil of the hospital’s earliest days.

    On the night of July 3, 1923, “a parade of the Ku...

  6. 2 THE PROMISE OF THE CHILD AND THE LIMITS OF PROGRESS
    (pp. 51-86)

    Jackson Davis was a true believer in the educational reforms that carried up-to-date psychological ideas southward in a dramatic way. In 1947, shortly before his death, Davis repeated the principles that shaped his thirty-two-year career as a southern agent for the General Education Board (GEB), an arm of the Rockefeller Foundation. Visiting an Alabama school, he described the “philosophy motivating the projects”: first, “the school is the best single agency for developing social and economic changes,” and second, “permanent changes will come through the proper direction of children.”¹ Children were all but absent in early southern discussions of personality, which...

  7. 3 THE TROUBLED PERSONALITIES OF THE SOUTH
    (pp. 87-116)

    The South came to symbolize America’s problems beginning with denunciations of slavery during the age of Jackson. A century later, with the diagnosis much the same, social science appeared as a cure. When the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and the shock of the Great Depression focused national attention on the region’s hatred and poverty, psychology offered explanations. Alongside academic studies, Clarence Cason, a professor of journalism at the University of Alabama, prepared a reflection on southernness for publication in 1935 that he called a “psychograph.” Although he was old-fashioned enough also to label his sketch...

  8. 4 IN THE SOUTHERN BORDERLAND OF MIND AND SOUL
    (pp. 117-151)

    Southern piety commanded attention no matter how practitioners of the mental sciences felt about religious belief. The region’s faith intruded, among other places, in postwar discussions of the much-heralded new theory of the “anti-democratic personality.” The literature alternatively labeled this individual “ethnocentric,” “prejudiced,” and “authoritarian,” and theorists devised questionnaires to identify the type in populations. The “F scale” measured a predisposition for “fascism,” and the test’s name signaled the European orientation of the émigré scholars who anchored the collective work,The Authoritarian Personality(1950).¹ White southerners in the United States were not their focus, and yet it seemed only a...

  9. 5 THE SHORT LIFE OF SOUTHERN PSYCHOLOGY
    (pp. 152-184)

    The end of legal segregation mandated by theBrownruling in 1954 seemed to promise that the South would soon catch up with the liberalism of which Americans of the era were proud. But the strident racial conservatism of rising southern psychologists made the prognosis less certain. This sharp rightward turn was to an extent a matter of generational change. For Lillian Smith, reflecting a year before her death in Georgia in 1966, it seemed that her work for racial justice was done. After her doctor remarked, “You’ve finished your big job, Miss Lil, all this segregation thin[g],” she realized...

  10. EPILOGUE THE SCIENCES OF THE SELF AS AN INSTRUMENT OF SOUTHERN SELF-KNOWLEDGE
    (pp. 185-188)

    By the end of segregation, the South had acquired a storehouse of psychological ideas that did justice to the early faith of the new mental sciences that the mind could be explicated. The self that so widely attracted notice at the turn of the century was imagined to be individualized and flexible, and mastery of its secrets promised control of personal and perhaps human destiny. Southerners, along with many others, explored personality development, group dynamics, and existential healing. The psychological fields expanded in southern colleges and universities, and private practices and public agencies offered therapies. Southern experts entered the postwar...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 189-286)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 287-305)