Charles Henry Thompson

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Charles Henry Thompson
Photo of Charles Henry Thompson
Born(1895-07-19)July 19, 1895
Jackson, Mississippi
DiedJanuary 16, 1980(1980-01-16) (aged 84)
Hyattsville, Maryland
Alma mater
Known for

Charles Henry Thompson (July 19, 1895 – January 16, 1980) was the first African American to obtain a doctoral degree in educational psychology.[1][2] Founder of the Journal of Negro Education, he has been characterized as "arguably the most prominent dean in African American higher education during the era of segregation".[3] He was the author of over 100 scholarly publications and editorials.[4] He was a professor at Howard University for 40 years (1926 – 1966), serving as dean of the liberal arts college and then of the graduate school.[5]

Early life[edit]

Thompson was born in 1895 in Jackson, Mississippi[1] to Patrick Henry and Sara Estelle Thompson. His parents were both teachers at the Jackson College. Thompson went to school in Virginia at Wayland Academy where he graduated from high school in 1914.[2]

Undergraduate/Graduate College[edit]

Straight after high school Thompson enrolled in Virginia Union University. He graduated in 1917 with a Bachelor’s Degree by doubling his course load. After graduation, he trained as an army cadet in Des Moines, Iowa, and was drafted into the army in Camp Grant and then France. He remained in the Army for nineteen months, where he was an Infantry Personnel Regimental Sergeant Major. When he got discharged, he attended the University of Chicago, double majoring in education and psychology, graduating in 1919.[1] He received a Masters degree in 1920, with a thesis titled "A study of the reading accomplishments of colored and white children", reporting on his study of children in Chicago.[1] Thompson was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Chicago in 1925.[2][1]


Thompson had a strong desire to become a psychiatrist, but settled for educational psychology because there were not any known African Americans with a degree in psychiatry. He became an instructor at Virginia Union University between 1920 and 1921. In 1922 he became the director of instruction at Alabama State Normal School, a historically black college, serving until 1924. He was a social science and psychology professor from 1925 through 1926 at Sumner High School and Junior College located in Kansas City. Thompson finally settled at Howard University, where he held various posts, including professor of education, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and the Dean of the Graduate School.[2]


In 1932 Thompson founded the Journal of Negro Education,[6] and he was its editor-in-chief for over thirty years.[2] In his career, he saw the end of legally sanctioned segregation of public schools, following the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).


Thompson was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Thompson's wife, May Stewart Thompson, died in 1975. Thompson died of a heart attack in Hyattsville, Maryland on January 16, 1980.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ray, Louis (2012). Charles H. Thompson : policy entrepreneur of the Civil Rights movement,1932-1954. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 9781611475210. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Guthrie, R.V. (1998). p. 168.
  3. ^ Louis Ray, 'Revisiting Charles H. Thompson's Proposals for Educating Gifted African American Students, 1933-1961', The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 81, No. 3 (Summer 2012).
  4. ^ "Featured Psychologist: Charles H. Thompson, PhD". APA. American Psychological Association. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Dr. C. H. Thompson Dies, Dean Emeritus at Howard". Washington Post. January 23, 1980. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  6. ^ Dennis Thompson; John D. Hogan; Philip M. Clark (2012). Developmental Psychology in Historical Perspective. John Wiley & Sons. p. 155. ISBN 978-1-4051-6747-5.


  • Guthrie, R.V. (1998) Production of Black Psychologist in America. Even the Rat Was White (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 155-212.

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