The devastating tragedy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s death spurred many movements. One of them was the formation of the Black Psychiatrists of America.
Using Civil Rights movement tactics, they demanded the American Psychiatry Association recognize their role in perpetuating racism and recognize it as a serious societal issue. And it was their founding president who would change children’s television forever...
Dr. Chester Pierce was trained in child development and public health, and saw the potential effects of TV on the developing minds of children. By 1969, nearly every home in this country had a TV!
Dr. Pierce saw TVs as “carriers” of biased, racist views and images that negatively affect Black children. Ever heard of “microaggressions?” He coined the term from his study on negative and stigmatizing representations of Black people on TV.
Dr. Pierce was involved in the creation of the groundbreaking television show for pre-school children that would soon be known as “Sesame Street.”
It was purposely the most racially diverse cast ever on public television, and featured an imaginatively designed inner-city neighborhood, like that of many Black children.
One of the most highly regarded children television shows ever was specifically designed to counteract the negative effects of racist programming on TV, and grew out of the Black-led movement to reform the field of psychiatry. Amazing!