Beginnings: The Many Shoulders on Which We Stand

There are no persons of color involved in the founding of the American Psychological Association in 1892, and ethnic minority issues are of the most marginal interest to the Association until the 1960’s. Indeed, when the Supreme Court in its 1954 Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education decision, orders the dismantling of the nation’s legally racially segregated public school systems, the Association fails to acknowledge the significant impact of the psychological research and data submitted to the Court by Kenneth B. Clark and several of his SPSSI (Division 9) colleagues. But gradually the APA shifts in its stance on ethnic minority issues as a result of psychological research challenging mainstream psychology’s assumptions of innate racial differences; increases in racial discrimination challenges to intelligence and other psychological testing for employment and educational purposes; continual advocacy by Division 9 and by Kenneth Clark himself in his roles as APA Board member and President in the early 1970s; the increasing number, organization and advocacy of psychologists of color; and the growing social activism of the times.


Chester Pierce and James Comer, two Black psychiatrists, are instrumental in having the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) develop a distinct organizational unit to promote the development of mental health programs for minority groups. As a result the NIMH establishes the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) in five disciplines: psychiatry, psychology, social work, sociology, and psychiatric nursing.


During the annual APA convention, the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) representative to the Council of Representatives, Charles W. Thomas, brings forth a “challenge to change” that intended to address the APA’s inadequacy in meeting Black Americans’ needs. In addition the national chairman of ABPsi addresses the APA Council. In response, the APA works with ABPIsi and the Black Students Psychological Association (BSPA) to establish the Commission on Accelerating Black Participation in Psychology.


To explore training and employment problems encountered as a consequence of race, the Council of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) sets forth an impetus for the APA board of directors to establish the Ad Hoc Committee on Equality of Opportunity in Psychology (CEOP).

Beginnings and Founding


APA Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs is established with Esteban Olmedo as its director.


In 1978, a conference on Expanding the Roles of Culturally Diverse Peoples in the Profession of Psychology (renamed ‘The Dulles Conference’) is convened with the leadership of Dalmas Taylor (deceased), and funding from APA and NIMH. The conference recommends the establishment of an APA office and board on ethnic minority affairs – both of which are established by 1980.


The director of the APA Minority Fellowship Program, Dalmas Taylor, submits a proposal to the NIMH Center for Minority Group Mental Health in order to organize a conference for ethnic minority psychologists.


By 1975, independent national psychological associations are established by African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics/Latino(a)s.


The APA supports the Minority Fellowship program, with Dalmas Taylor as its first director and James Jones as its second director. This program has allowed many people of color to enter the field of psychology and provided them with mentorship.


The National Conference on Levels and Patterns of Professional Training in Psychology is held in Vail (a.k.a. the Vail Conference). It is the first national psychology conference where ethnic minority issues achieve some prominence. Attention is given to such issues as the civil rights movement, women’s rights, the gay and lesbian rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal. In addition affirmative action programs and the identification, recruitment, admission, retention and graduation of ethnic minority students are implemented. Thus the attendees also recommend the formation of the APA Board and Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs.

Beginnings and Founding


Dalmas Taylor (deceased) serves as the Division’s third President (1988-90).


In 1987, Division 45 establishes its first Executive Committee comprised by Chalsa M. Loo and John N. Moritsugu (co-Presidents), Lillian ComasDiaz (Secretary-Treasurer), Melba Vasquez (Council Rep), Dalmas Taylor(President-Elect), Esteban Olmeda, (Past Founding President), Lisa PorcheBurke, Teresa LaFromboise, Charles Pine and Hortensia Amaro (Members at Large).

Division 45 conducts its first APA Convention Program.

The Division’s Executive Committee establishes several Annual Awards


In response to deliberations of the APA Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs (BEMA) Task Force on Communications with Minority Constituents, chaired by John Moritsugu , ethnic minority issues in psychology are integrated into the APA through the establishment of the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues (Division 45), with Esteban Olmedo as President, Lillian Comas-Diaz as Treasurer, John Moritsugu as Secretary, and Melba Vasquez as Council Representative.


Lillian Comas-Diaz arrives at the American Psychological Association to direct its Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs. In addition, the Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs (BEMA) Task Force on Communications with Minority Constituents is set in motion.


The APA Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs (BEMA) Task Force on Minority Education and Training is established.


The creation of a Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs (BEMA) within APA is approved by its membership.

The Growing Years: Putting Policies, Structures and Relationships in Place

During the 1990s, the following persons serve as President of Division 45: Teresa LaFromboise (1990/91) Amado Padilla (1991/93), Vera Paster (1993/94), Gordon Hall 1994/95), Charles Pine (1995/96), Guillermo Bernal (1996/97), Lisa PorcheBurke (1997/98), and Dearld Sue (1998/99).

These persons primarily focus on: (a) establishing the Division’s operational infrastructure, including developing policies and procedures, establishing culturally derived rituals, building membership, and establishing standing committees, (b) articulating a comprehensive and coherent vision for the Division, (c) establishing many of the Division’s signature programs and initiatives, and (d) forging alliances for ensuring the Division had ‘muscle’ within and outside the political arenas of the APA.


Richard M. Suinn is elected as APA President.

As a result of cooperation among a landmark number of persons of color serving as APA Division Presidents, the Inaugural National Multicultural Conference and Summit (NMCS) is convened in Newport Beach, CA under the leadership of Division 45 and co-sponsorship of Divisions 17 (Counseling), 35 (Women) and 44 ( LGBT), with Derald Sue as conference chairperson.  Subsequently, the NMCS is held biennially, co-sponsorsed by these Divisions.

The first National Multicultural Conference and Summit takes place, co-sponsored by Divisions 45, 17, 35, and 44.

Dr. Allen Ivey is elected as the first non-ethnic minority psychologist for the position of Division 45 Executive Committee member at large.


As a result of the efforts of Guillermo Bernal, Lisa Porche-Burke, and others, the Division launches its journal, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology with Lillian Comas-Diaz as editor, thus ensuring both the visibility of ethnic minority psychological research, and a significant stream of income to the Division.


Guillermo Bernal, president from 1996-1997, helps to crystallize the presence of an official division journal within the Society.


With the leadership of Gordon Nagayama Hall, the Division enters ‘major league’ APA politics through its organized efforts in support of the APA President candidacy of Richard M. Suinn.


The Division’s award-winning Links and Shoulders initiative, a graduate student mentoring program, is established under the leadership of Vera Paster and subsequently continues to be conducted at every APA convention.


Amado M. Padilla (1991-1993), who is president for two consecutive terms, establishes the Publication and Communications Committee which plans for the development of an official division journal.

President Vera Paster (1993- 1994), founds the mentorship program known as “Links and Shoulders” hoping that young psychology professionals will benefit from those who have weathered before them.


The Ethnic Minority Caucus of the APA Council of Representatives is established with Lillian Coma-Dias as Chair, and Alice Chang as Treasurer.

Coming into Its Own

The following persons serve as President of Division 45 during the 2000-2010 period: Joseph Trimble (1999/2000), Patricia Arredondo (2000/01), A.J. Franklin (2001/02) Jeffreu Mio (2002/03), Steven James (2003/04), Eduardo Morales (2004/05), Toy Caldwell-Colbert (2005/06), Frederick Leong (2006/07), Elizabeth (Beth) Boyd (2007/08), Manuel Casas (2008/09), Robert Sellers 2009/10), and Jean Lau Chin (2010/11).

Due to both continuous membership growth (out of 55 APA Divisions, Division 45 is one of about half a dozen, that demonstrated membership growth during recent years ) and the significant and continuously increasing revenue generated by its journal and other publications, the Division enters the 21st Century in a fairly comfortable financial condition. In addition, prior (and continuing) infrastructure-building efforts result in increased efficiency of Division operations and structures. Consequently, this opening decade of the 21st century becomes one in which the Division could stretch its legs a bit – take more risks, engage more actively in strategic innovation, and more aggressively advocate for ethnic minority concerns both within and outside of the APA.


Manuel Casas drafts a manuscript urging greater APA involvement in issues related to psychological aspects of immigration. Subsequently, APA President Melba Vasquez establishes a Task Force on this issue.


The Division’s Council of Past-Presidents is established under the leadership of Beth Boyd.


Division 45 Council Rep William Parham acts as floor manager for APA Council consideration of a proposed resolution calling for the authorization of a membership bylaws change vote to allow the establishment of 4 C/R seats for representatives of the national ethnic minority psychological associations. The council approved the vote, but the membership vote was opposed to the bylaws change.

The Division co-sponsors a conference on Culturally Informed Evidence-Based Practice chaired by Eduardo Morales.

As part of its continuous commitment to students, Division 45 establishes Psi Alpha Omega – “the national honor society in psychology for students of color and students interested in the study of ethnic and cultural issues” (Joseph Horvat, Founding Executive Director).

The Division’s Book Series is launched under the leadership of Frederick T. Leong.


The Division establishes a continuing Task Force on Scientific Affairs, chaired by Norweeta Millburn with the support of division President Fred Leong, which advocates for increased attention to ethnic minority perspectives in deliberations of the APA Board of Scientific Affairs and in APA’s scientific journals.

To implement her initiative, “Positioning psychologists for a diverse world: Competence, collaboration and celebration,” President Toy Caldwell-Colbert organizes the first national psychological conference on immigration and related issues, with the collaboration of Division 35 (Psychology of Women), led by its President, Cynthia de las Fuentes, and with financial support from APA President Gerry Koocher.


President Eduardo Morales (2004-2005) initiative is on ethnic minorities and health with specific attention being given to health discrimination.

The Third National Multicultural Conference and Summit takes place.

A strategic plan is developed for the years 2005-2010.


President Steven James (2003-2004) brings attention to people of mixed races and their families, giving specific attention to historical abuse issues regarding people of color.


Handbook of Racial and Ethnic Minority Psychology (edited by Guillermo Bernal, Joseph Trimble, Ann Kathleen Burlew, & Frederick T. Leong) is published, with proceeds going to Division 45.

President Jeffery Scott Mio (2002-2003) undertakes the initiative of building bridges with allies and his definition of diversity is broadened to include such variables as men, women, heterosexuals, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender individuals, physical ability, socioeconomic issues, and religion among others.

The Second National Multicultural Conference and Summit takes place.


The Division’s membership growth and support result in its acquiring a second APA Council Representative.

The guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice and organizational change for psychologists are adopted by the Council of Representatives, following efforts spearheaded by Divisions 45 and 17.


Due to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the Society is placed in a position of influence with regard to the socio-political environment of the United States in regard to attitudes with ethnic minorities and people of color.

As Division President, Anderson J. Franklin is one of 6 APA delegates to the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa – thus initiating the Division’s involvement in global public policy issues.  This is an effort to emphasize intolerance against oppression, scapegoating, resilience, racism, colonization, reparations, and slavery.


The second strategic planning meeting takes place. In efforts to reaffirm the spirit of inclusion, the Society created a student position on the governing board in the hopes that student concerns could be represented on a national level. Lawrence Yang is chosen for this position.

A Student Committee gets established due to the hard work of President Joseph Trimble (1999-2000).

Division 45 launches its first website at

FOCUS, the division newsletter, becomes available electronically.


At its midwinter meeting, the Executive Committee voted to add two new Member-At-Large (MAL) positions: MAL for LGBT persons of color and MAL for Arab Americans.

The Executive Committee also formed an Ad Hoc Committee on Policy Issues Under Consideration by APA, with Bertha Holliday as Chairperson.

The research presented at the 2014 Division 45 Research Conference demonstrated that the psychological study of culture, ethnicity and race has moved beyond traditional attempts to create universal theories or to identify race/ethnic differences, toward conceptually-guided approaches that identify the mechanisms of influence of culture, ethnicity and/or race on human behavior.


It’s official! A Bylaws Amendment to change the division’s name to The Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race is approved by the division membership and, subsequently, by the APA.

Division 45 starts the development of a repository of Diversity Literature on its website, a Presidential Initiative of Division 45 President Luis A.Vazquez. Primary responsibility for organizing the collection is given to an Ad Hoc Committee on Teaching Resources with Joseph Trimble as Chairperson.

The division devotes its annual James Jones Conversation Hour at the APA Convention to a discussion of the Trayvon Martin tragedy’s impact on individuals and communities, and how to reduce systematic bias, discrimination and racism in order to prevent violence against children, youth, and adults of color.

Division 45 hosts a “talk story” session with Native Hawaiian psychologists during the 2013 APA Convention.

With the release of its 2012 impact factor, the division’s journal, Cutural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology now ranks 2nd of 16 journals in the ethnic studies category and 24th of 60 journals in the social psychology category.


To implement President Justin “Doug” McDonald’s Presidential Initiative, “Putting Diversity into Leadership Action,” Division 45 establishes a Governance Committee and completes revisions of its Policies & Procedures as well as Orientation Manuals.

Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, the division’s journal, is recognized as a high impact journal, another indication of the division’s success in its mission to promote the psychological study of ethnicity and culture.

In response to the changing demographics of the United States population, Divsion 45 conducts a survey of its members to solicit their views on changing the Division’s name. Joseph Trimble, Chair of the Division 45 Council of Past Presidents, is asked by the division’s president to spearhead this initiative. The Division 45 membership favors changing the division’s name to The Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race.


As part of Division 45 President Jean Lau Chin’s Presidential Initiative on Diversity and Leadership, a panel composed mostly of Division 45 past presidents discusses leadership style and the influence of race and culture on the exercise of leadership at the 2011 National Multicultural Conference & Summit.

The strategic plan drafted in October 2010 is developed further to include 4 strategic goals with specific objectives and action plans.

At the 2011 APA Convention, Division 45 marks its 25th anniversary with a commemorative brochure, a ceremony honoring its past presidents and presenting each with a commemorative logo pin, and other special program activities.

The division’s Links and Shoulders Mentoring Program receives the prestigious Richard Suinn Minority Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association.


As part of his presidential initiative, Robert Sellers organizes and chairs the first Division conference.


For the first time, the APA Division 45 Biennial Research Conference included a pre-Conference with a Native American theme.

The Division 45 Business Meeting during the APA Convention opened with The Native American Women Warriors Color Guard who performed a healing ceremony honoring warriors, people of color, and psychology.

The Division 45 APA Convention Program highlighted North American indigenous cultural influences on Psychology, Native American self-actualization, confronting historical trauma in Native American communities, and collaborative research with American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes.

Division 45 sent a Statement of Support to the LBGT Community following the Orlando massacre.

A Statement of Support was also sent to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protesting against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through tribal sacred places, land and water sources.


Division 45 elected its first Members-at-Large, respectively, for Arab Americans and for LGBT persons of color.

A new, improved, and updated Division 45 website was launched.

In 2015, the Society for the Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race assessed progress in this field through its APA Convention Program, Cultural Competency: What Works in Research, Theory, and Practice.

At the APA Convention, the Society also honored two of its members by holding a tribute to outgoing APA CEO Dr. Norman D. Anderson for his contributions to the Division 45 mission, APA and the field of psychology in general and special events to honor the achievements of Dr. Joseph L. White.

In consultation with members, the Division 45 leadership prepared a response to the Hoffman Report that was delivered to APA by their Council Representatives.

Division 45 joined Division 49 and other divisions in endorsing the Call to Action Statement on the One-Year Anniversary of the Abduction of the Nigerian Schoolgirls.

A new policy, designed to increase transparency, now gives Division Members access to Minutes of Executive Committee and Business meetings, as well as Reports of committees and task forces, except where a matter should be kept confidential or disclosure might have a detrimental impact.

Following renegotiations, the contract with APA for publication of the Division’s journal was renewed.

The Division assessed its financial sustainability and took steps to further insure it.

Note: This document was initially prepared from a chronological history, based on an article by Lillian Comas-Diaz, written by Fred Leong for the Division’s 20th Anniversary and on The Many Shoulders on Which We Stand and a chronological history by Bertha Holliday and Felicisima Serafica on the occasion of the Division’s 25th Anniversary. This chronology is updated annually by succeeding division historians.