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Dr. Joseph White
On this date in 1932, Joseph L. White was born. He was a Black educator, mentor, administrator, clinical supervisor, writer, consultant, and practicing psychologist.
He was born in Lincoln, NE, the son of Dorothy Lee and Joseph L. White. His family moved to Minneapolis when he was an infant, where he attended Catholic Schools and also grew up in Pillsbury Community House programs. White was the first Black to graduate from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis. He left with an eye to being a waiter due to the then-perceived roles for Black men in 1950.
He moved to California and lived with his aunt, the Reverend Margaret Brown. After meeting and listening to his Uncle Bob’s wife, Betty Lee, who encouraged him, he enrolled at San Francisco State University. A naturally inquisitive young man, he noticed where doors were open for Blacks and where they were closed. He was determined to pursue his dream regardless of the educational barriers. By the time he was 25, White had a master’s degree in psychology, had finished two years in the military, and was married.
White completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University and began a path in education to teach his chosen field, helping his students find a more practical road to attaining their goals in psychology. Dr. White has held faculty and administrative appointments at California State University Long Beach and San Francisco State University.
In 1968, Dr. White created the Educational Opportunity Program for the state of California. In this endeavor, 67 Black and Hispanic youths were chosen for a college education. Dr. White and his colleagues tried to select students on the basis of their potential that may not have been revealed in their high school grades and/or test scores. They answered questions such as: what did they do with their time while they were in high school. They were asked to write biographies.
White would read them to find what he considered signs of the seven major African American strengths: improvisation, resilience, connectedness to others, spirituality, emotional vitality, gallows humor, and a healthy suspicion of White folks. The Educational Opportunity Program also set in place strong mentoring/tutoring programs to help the students along, especially during the first two semesters, until they could fly on their own.
The success of this program spread to all 23 California State colleges. Over 40 years, over 300,000 students have been admitted to the program and have gone on to professional careers. In 1968, Dr. White created the “Black Studies” program at San Francisco State University and worked as a coordinator on the presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy. A pioneer in Black Psychology, his 1970 article, “Toward a Black Psychology” in Ebony Magazine set the tone for professional consideration on the subject.
His first wife and mother of his three children were Myrtle Escort White. His second wife and partner for over 30 years are Lois White, an elementary school teacher in Irvine, CA. His three daughters are Lori, Lisa, and Lynn.
White never forgot his roots, becoming a guru of sorts during his 25 years at the University of California- Irvine. In 1984, he wrote The Psychology of Blacks: An African American Perspective. This book was reprinted in 1990 and 1999. Other books by Dr. White are The Troubled Adolescent 1989, and Black Man Emerging 1999.
On May 23, 2008, he was honored as Alumnus of the Year at San Francisco State University. Dr. Joseph L. White died in November 2017 on his way to Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
Remembering the path to “T” Town:
Migration of an African American family through seven states to Lincoln, Nebraska, 1720-1940
By Roy and Stephanie Meyers