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Biography Essay on Beverly Daniel Tatum - Psychologist

6 pages
1521 words
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Beverly Daniel Tatum, an educator, and a clinical psychologist were born on September 27, 1954, in Tallahassee, Florida. She has, in the course of her life grown into a renowned and an overly influential psychologist. Among her numerous successes, Tatum has conducted research and also authored various books on the topic on racism and hence providing substantial psychological contributions on the subject of racism. More fundamentally, being of an African American decent, her psychological contribution focuses explicitly on racial identity and development among teenagers, race in education and most importantly the assimilation of people from the African American background in white neighborhoods (Finning-Kwoka, 2007). This being said, the core intent of this research paper is to discuss Tatums specific psychological contributions as a member of the black minority group in the United States.

To begin with, in the realm of her academic career and between 1983 and 1989, Tatum worked as a psychology professor at the Westfield State College after which she joined the Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, still as a professor of psychology and where she worked for 13 years. As a college professor, Tatum extensively made use of the latest research to not only dispel race as an existing taboo but to also give her students a new lens from which they can understand the emergence of racial identity as a developmental process that is experienced by almost every person (Richardson, 2017).

As a worlds renowned author, Tatum published a widely acclaimed book on the psychology of racism. In 1997, about two decades ago, Tatum wrote her book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race with the intention of helping other people move beyond fear and denial so as to demystify conversations about race and better understand racism, its impacts on society and what people can do about the topic. With regard to bringing psychological awareness in the society, Tatum, in her book argues that a majority of the Americans are usually reluctant to talk about issues of race or even report its existence. Based on this concept, she presses for the need for people to consider the psychological effects of racial identity development. This is also mirrored in her recent works such as her 2007 book Can We Talk about Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Re-segregation. Here, she again emphasized on the need for an urgent conversation about race owing to the continued racial segregation in modern day schools and the grave impacts that this has on the racial minorities achievements.

Concerning the significant events that have occurred during her time, in December 1997, Tatum was one of the three authors and among the 67 people who attended and participated in the Summit on Race Relationships and Americas Public Education System. This was following the publication of her second book. Particularly, this Summit was the very first United States program in President Bill Clintons initiative that was intended to improve the race relations in the country. Besides, owing to her highly sought after expertise, Tatum is known to have significantly impacted the field of psychology through her fearless discussions on the racial and personal identity topics. For instance, Tatum has been featured on modern day television shows such as the Oprah Winfrey show on which she primarily applies her general expertise on race, to put across the point that straight talk on matters relating to racial identity is crucial to the nation.

Other than her significant psychological contribution as a book author, Tatum is also widely renowned for her academic article, The Complexity of Identity: Who Am I. Like in her racial awareness texts, Tatum, in this article, explore the numerous identities that are taken on by a variety of different people as well as their impacts on society. Based on this context, she is recognized for her psychological contributions on the issue of personal identity and equality. In her writing, she argues that an individual does not only identify his or her identities, but those that are around the person also define their identities. With reference to living within a community, Tatum argues that it is through an individuals identities, that one can set themselves apart from the rest of the members whether in a classroom or a society. Therefore, concerning her psychological knowledge, Tatum explains that the reason why the society is made up of different groups of people with different variabilities is owing to the fact that some identities are dominant than others. In summary, Tatum argues that in a society that is made up of a dominant and minority group, people who belong to the dominant groups tend to be more or less blind to the various privileges that the society offers them.

In 2002, Tatum ended her 13-year tenure at Mount Holyoke and became president of Spelman College where she has left a significant psychological implication owing to her extensive use of psychological learning, her personal experience, and her students to bring awareness on the issue of racial inequality. Here Tatum became the ninth president of the institution and also the third African American female to head the college. Besides, according to Tingle (2008) in Tatums five years experience as president of Spelman College, she is most remembered for her significant efforts in striving to make all students feel welcome regardless of their racial backgrounds or economic needs. According to many modern day scholars, one of the most significant psychological contributions made by Tatum as she served as president of Spelman College was the expectations that she set for the college. More precisely, Tatum set the expectation that the college would be nationally recognized as the finest liberal arts colleges that would nature and support young women of the African descent. Moreover, as a psychologist, Tatum believes that despite the fact that America is considered to have made great strides with regard to the battle against sexism and racism, there is still a great relevance for black women colleges. According to her, there is the need to liberate and support the minority African American women owing to the fact black women, up to the modern day today, are still marginalized.

Additionally, one of the primary significant occurrences during her service as president of Spelman College was the massive improvement in the colleges technological advancements. More fundamentally, Tatum joined Spelmans college administration with her top priority being improving the technology of the institution and also planning the universal internet access for all the residence halls on campus. She is also renowned for her great support for students involvement with the Spelman College administration, something which enabled a majority of the female students in the college to voice their opinions on the decisions that were being made by the administration.

Today, the relevance of Tatums psychological contribution towards the topic of racial equality is substantiated by the existence of the United States multicultural curricula. Although this is considered to be proof of progress towards racial awareness, Tatum contends that the multicultural curricula are only considered effective on the basis of racial consciousness and identity if and only if, it is done intentionally (Tatum, 1997). For instance, she states that being racially diverse or being considerate of the minority groups does not only mean understanding the ethnicity or even knowing the heroes and the holidays that are associated with that particular ethnic group. Instead, Tatum states that multicultural curricula, especially in white-dominated schools, means to understand the differences in the students in the school purposely and to be able to make all students feel as part and parcel of the multiculturalism in the school (Tatum, 2004).

Being a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), one of her remarkable achievements was her 2014 APA Award for her incredibly outstanding lifetime contributions to psychology. Moreover, during her tenure as the president of Spelman College, the institution launched its Wellness Revolution. This, in essence, is a holistic initiative that is designed to empower and also educate the Spelman college women as well as the communities they will influence on the critical components of the basic lifelong wellness.

In conclusion, Beverly Tatum has in the course of her 20 years career been renowned for teaching her signature course on the psychology of racism. Besides, her extensive involvement in leading workshops that are centered on identity development as well as its impacts in classrooms is considered as some of her primary psychological contributions in the modern day today.


Finning-Kwoka, S. M. (2007). "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting to gether in the Cafeteria?" and Other Conversations About Race. Journal of College and Character, 9(2). doi:10.2202/1940-1639.1132

Richardson, J. (2017). Can we talk about race? An interview with Beverly Daniel Tatum. Sage Journals, 99(3), 30-36. doi:10.1177/0031721717739590

Tatum, B. D. (1997). Talking About Race, Learning About Racism: The Application of Racial Identity Development Theory in the Classroom. Racism: Essential Readings, 311-325. doi:10.4135/9781446220986.n31

Tatum, B. D. (2004). Family Life and School Experience: Factors in the Racial Identity Development of Black Youth in White Communities. Journal of Social Issues, 60(1), 117-135. doi:10.1111/j.0022-4537.2004.00102.x

Tingle, J. K. (2008). Can We Talk About Race? and Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation By Beverly Daniel Tatum. Journal of College and Character, 9(4). doi:10.2202/1940-1639.1145

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