Essay Example on Robert V. Guthrie: Influential African-American Scholar of the 20th Century

Paper Type: 
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1631 Words
Date:  2023-09-19


Robert V. Guthrie is one of the most talented and influential African-American scholars of the 20th century and will be remembered as an American psychologist. Guthrie in his book Even the Rat was White: A Historical View of Psychology highlights the struggles he faced in his quest to become a renowned psychologist. To begin with, in 1955 when he enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Kentucky he was the only black person in a predominately white class (O’Connor, 2001). Even the lecturers and fellow students did not offer him much support. According to O’Connor (2001), he once attended a football match whereby a song that supported favorable portrayal of slavery “Ol’ Kentucky Home” was played by the band. Nonetheless, despite the frustration and discomfort, Guthrie felt that he had the right to be in school; therefore, pursuing his psychology degree, to go and teach in the University of Pittsburgh, work for the government as a senior research psychologist in Washington D.C. studying multicultural issues in the society, and to write his book (O’connor, 2001). Hence, this paper will critically analyze the impact of Guthrie's text on racial zeitgeist.

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A History of a Discipline Cannot be Viewed Independently from its Major Zeitgeist Influences

Firstly, only Guthrie's work examines psychology development as a discipline at colleges and universities that were historically black. Thus, without his text, the history of psychology would know almost nothing about its development at these schools and the major racial zeitgeist influences of their time. At the time, most African Americans were not allowed to attend many grad schools and there were few psychology opportunities for black people. In this light, a history of a discipline cannot be viewed independently of major zeitgeist influences. First, this is because the history of psychology ensures that the present branches of psychology are sensible and cohesive with a common core. Second, the history of psychology assists scholars in understanding how contemporary psychology came to be and help people learn from their past mistakes. In fact, this awareness of history assists current scholars to question about the past, forming a new hypothesis, and conducting research.

Therefore, several zeitgeist factors impacted modern psychology including, economic opportunities, war, prejudice, and discrimination. In essence, the history of psychology in African American schools cannot be viewed independently from the racial zeitgeist of the psychologist times. During Guthrie's time as a psychology student, an individual’s race was among the zeitgeist factors that dictated who could go to school and even become a psychologist. Indeed, African-American psychologist contributions in the discipline were omitted from the mainstream university curriculum as observed by Guthrie and inspired him to set these records straight (Guthrie, 2004). As a matter of fact, some white professors doubted the research conducted African Americans psychologists such as Kenneth Clark and Mamie Clark (O’Connor, 2001).

Guthrie's text has greatly impacted on racial zeitgeist factor by studying history and the contribution of African American psychologists to the discipline. it is fascinating to understand how specific psychology ideas have evolved. Therefore, by studying systems and history of psychology scholars could avoid repeating past mistakes and helping people understand the present diversity by removing confusion caused by the diversity of the discipline. The history of psychology helps to understand main political and cultural events in the evolution of the discipline.

Impact of the Race Zeitgeist on American Society

Race Zeitgeist factor has to lead to racial inequality and the current race relations in the United States. African Americans are the most likely to their race and have hurt them instead of helping their ability to progress. Among the Hispanics, Asians, and Whites they are more likely to say that their race has been a benefit rather than an impediment. Thus, blacks’ race becomes important on how black people think about themselves, while half of the Asians and Hispanic say their race is core to their general identity; and only 15% of white people indicate the same. Approximately 50% of all African Americans claim that their race has negatively impacted their ability to get ahead. Among them 18% believe that it hurt a lot; 17% claim that being black has helped them at least a little; while 29% argue that it has not helped nor hurt them. Conversely, 40% of the Asians, Hispanics, and whites claim that their race has not influenced their ability to get ahead and to the extent, it has most points out that it has assisted that hurt (Horowitz et al., 2019).

White Americans are more likely to respond that their race has provided them with some benefits; 45 % claim that being white has assisted them to progress at least a little; 50% claim that it has neither hurt nor helped and only 5% posit that being white impacts negatively on their ability to get ahead.37% of Asians to claim that their race has helped them, while 30% of Hispanics claim the same about their race. Only 25% Asians, and 25% Hispanic say that their race has hurt their capability to get ahead. In terms of education, 605 white graduates say that their race has contributed to their capacity to get ahead, 39% of whites with a college education, and 35% of those with less education. 60% of blacks with at least college education claim that being black has hurt their ability to progress in life with 47% of African Americans with a high school diploma or less education. Majority of the African Americans (76%), Asians (76), and Hispanics (58%) say that they been unfairly treated or faced discrimination based on their race. 67% of whites say they have never been discriminated against on racial basis. Further, 64% of African American adults were told the challenges they might encounter because of their ethnicity, while 91% of whites, 64% of Hispanics, and 56% of Asians never had these conversations. Thus, race zeitgeist factor plays a significant role in psychologists of diverse race contribution to the discipline (Horowitz et al., 2019).

Mary Calkins and Robert Guthrie Experiences

Mary Calkins was the 14th and first woman president of the American Psychologists Association (APA). Both Calkins and Guthrie's careers were successful. On the one hand, Guthrie's work promoted equal education and recognition for all races in academic discourse inspired through his observation of black psychologists’ contribution to the discipline missing from mainstream colleges and university curricula. Besides, he worked as a teacher and government service and published a book that greatly contributed to the American psychology recognition of the negative effects of racial segregation in the discipline. On the other hand, Calkins is regarded as one of the most important first-generation American psychologists. She established one of the first psychology laboratories in the US, published four books, and over 100 papers in philosophy and psychology. Furthermore, she developed self-psychology.

Calkins and Guthrie were impacted by different zeitgeist factors during their time. Guthrie was impacted by race whereby he pursued a course whereby he was the only black person, he encountered racial prejudice and experienced first-hand his college professors doubting the research by black psychologists. He felt that black psychologists were discriminated against by their contribution to the field missing from mainstream college and university curricula. Conversely, Calkins was impacted by gender whereby she was refused the degree by Harvard Corporation on the basis that the school did not accept women despite her acknowledgment she receives from all the psychologists she worked with.

Guthrie's book challenged racial zeitgeist by contributing to the negative effects of racial segregation in a psychology study. He shed light and brought attention to the contributions of the African American scholars which was usually ignored in the racist and segregated American south (O’Connor, 2001). Thus, Even the Rat was White: A Historical Review of Psychology illuminated the contributions of a pioneering black psychologist while challenging racial stereotypes in and out of the field of psychology. Benjamin's (2019) book offers new ways in which racial bias has been infused in technology and can have a detrimental effect on certain groups or communities although its goals for its use are altruistic. For instance, Benjamin (2019) cites that a gang database in the US is 87% Latinos and blacks with even names of babies of 1-year-olds. Also, a beauty contest that was judged by programmed robots via deep learning whereby all winners were white and only one black winner (Benjamin, 2019). A google maps glitch that reads "Malcolm X Boulevard" as Malcolm Ten Boulevard". And a recidivism risk algorithm that wrongly predicted arrested individuals would re-offend, with the formula more likely to flag black defendants and less likely to flag white defendants as future criminals (Benjamin, 2019). Thus, Benjamin book (2019) shows how racial zeitgeist has changed over time.


In conclusion, Guthrie's book contributed greatly to the field of psychology by advocating for black psychologists' contributions to the discipline be recognized. He highlighted the superior contribution of black psychologists' contribution to racial segregation in the south and even how they have been quoted in landmark cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education whereby the Supreme Court quoted the Clarks (O’Connor, 2001). Therefore, he shed right on racial bias in the psychology field. Nonetheless, racial segregation is still a problem in American society since it has been infused in technology as illustrated by Benjamin's book.


Benjamin, R. (2019). Race after technology: Abolitionist tools for the new Jim code. Social Forces.

Guthrie, R. V. (2004). Even the rat was white: A historical view of psychology. Pearson Education.

Horowitz, J. M., Brown, A., & Cox, K. (2019, December 31). The role of race and ethnicity in Americans’ lives. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project.

O'Connor, E. M. (2001). An 'American psychologist'.

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Essay Example on Robert V. Guthrie: Influential African-American Scholar of the 20th Century. (2023, Sep 19). Retrieved from

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