Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser was a psychologist born in Texas. She was the oldest child of 11, and spent much of her childhood moving to different places in Texas. Her father worked as a waiter and her mother was a homemaker. Upon graduation, Prosser pursued a teaching degree at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, earning her teaching certificate in 1912.
As soon as she was certified, Prosser began teaching in African American elementary and high schools, but she did not stop there. Despite prejudice and laws intended to prevent black Americans from obtaining advanced degrees, she found a school that allowed her to pursue a master’s degree—the University of Colorado. Prosser graduated from the University in Colorado with a master’s in education. She did all of this while still working as a teacher in Texas.
After getting her master’s, Prosser joined the faculty at Tillotson College of Austen, teaching classes in education and psychology. In 1931, she applied to the General Education Board for a fellowship to pursue doctoral research.
She received the fellowship and enrolled at the University of Cincinnati to pursue a doctoral degree in their College of Education. Upon completing her research and defending her dissertation, Prosser became the first African American woman to earn a doctoral degree in psychology. Her research examined student’s achievement in school based on segregation, looking at social and mental health impacts on student outcomes.
Dr. Prosser had a well-established career, publishing her research in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. She also helped financially support her siblings’ education. Dr. Prosser accomplished all this in just 38 years, when she passed from an accident.
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