Obituaries

Frances Cress Welsing

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i783 (Published 08 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i783
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}europefn.de

African American psychiatrist who developed theories on racism and white supremacy

Elvert Barnes

In 1974 Frances Cress Welsing agreed to a debate with William Shockley on the topic of racial superiority—or, conversely, racial inferiority. The debate would be seen across the US on Tony Brown’s Journal, a programme focusing on African American issues that was broadcast by the public TV network PBS.1

At the time Welsing was a virtually unknown assistant professor of paediatrics at Howard University in Washington, DC. Shockley was a world famous physicist who in 1956 had won the Nobel prize for helping discover the “transistor effect” of semiconductors. During the 1960s and early 1970s, however, Shockley had become controversial for his theory that black people as a group were genetically inferior to white people, and therefore generally not as intelligent. The speeches he gave to promote his theories at universities across the US were often disrupted by students opposed to his views.

But Welsing had also developed a controversial theory, which she had explained in a 15 page essay entitled: “The Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation and Racism (White Supremacy).” In 1970 she had read the essay at a meeting of the psychiatry and neurology section of the National Medical Association that represented African American physicians.

In simple terms, Welsing’s theory states that the skin of white people is a result of a genetic recessive and deficiency condition that causes an inability to produce …

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