African Americans Who Have Made (and are Making) a Difference in Promoting Resistance to and Recovery from Alcohol and Other Drug Problems
By Mark Sanders and William White
African American communities have often been portrayed as passive victims to alcohol and other drug problems (AOD) within their communities. Such portrayals fail to capture the long history of indigenous resistance to and recovery from such problems among African Americans and their community institutions. As part of a larger effort to reconstruct the history of addiction treatment and recovery within African American communities in the United States, the authors would like to briefly profile a few of the African Americans who addressed, and are addressing, AOD problems in the United States.
This list is by no means complete and we invite readers to share with us others who should be included (at Onthemark25@aol.com). Admittedly, the very brief summaries also do not do full justice to the depth and duration of contributions of many of those profiled. That said, we hope readers will conclude this brief review with a new appreciation of the forces of resistance and recovery that have long existed within African American communities as well as the larger contributions African Americans have made within the history of addiction treatment and recovery in the United States. That we will likely grieve those we forget to include and be deluged with reports of others who should be included in this list offer additional evidence of such contributions.
Ijeoma Achara-Abraham, Ph.D., currently provides training and consultation services to assist in the recovery-focused transformation of large behavioral health systems. She formerly served as the Director of Strategic Planning for the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services, and, while on the faculty of Yale University, aided the systems transformation effort of the Connecticut's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Lonnetta Albright is the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center (GLATTC), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Under her leadership, GLATTC is helping affiliate states shift from an acute care model of addictions treatment towards recovery management (RM) and recovery oriented systems of care (ROSC). GLATTC has promoted evidence-based addiction treatment and has copublished a series of monographs on RM and ROSC.
Michelle Alexander, J.D., author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, is a civil rights lawyer who has served as the Director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California and taught at Stanford University and at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Her research and writings have focused on the racial bias within the nation’s drug policies, law enforcement practices, and the larger criminal justice system.
Rex Alexander, MA, CAADC, MISA II coordinates the Illinois's Access to Recovery Program (ATR). This is a Federal initiative which provides vouchers to adults with substance use disorders to pay for a range of traditional and non-traditional recovery support services. Rex successfully mobilized the faith based community of all denominations, recovery homes, peers, and other service providers to provide treatment and recovery support for persons seeking recovery. Under Rex's leadership, Illinois' ATR became a model for the nation. His other areas of expertise include: adolescent services and the development of mental health and co-occurring disorders programs.
Chaney Allen is author of one of the first (1978) autobiographies (I’m Black and I’m Sober) of an African American in recovery. She founded the California Black Commission on Alcoholism and the California Women's Commission on Alcoholism. Through the Alcoholism and Counseling Education Center, she trained counselors in techniques for working with minority members with alcohol problems.
Paul Austin is the author of Return of the Lost One: My Bout with Alcoholism (2000), an autobiography of alcoholism recovery by an African American man.
Marion Barry (1936-2014), civil rights activists and Mayor of Washington, D.C. between 1979-1991, was arrested by the FBI in 1990 after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine. He rebounded from this adversity and was re-elected as Mayor of Washington, D.C. from 1995-1999. At the time of his death, he was in long term recovery.
Andrea Barthwell, M.D., FASAM, is founder and CEO of Two Dreams addiction treatment program. She is a former president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and served as Director of Demand Reduction at the office of the National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.
Louis E. Baxter, Sr., M.D., FASAM, has served as the President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Executive Medical Director of the Professional Assistance Program of New Jersey, Inc., and Medical Director of the Division of Addiction Services for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
Lula A. Beatty, Ph.D., is director of the Special Populations Office, Office of the Director, at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), where she has helped develop racial/ethnic minority research and health disparities programs. She has led efforts at NIDA to increase participation of underrepresented scholars in drug abuse and addiction research, and monitoring NIDA's support of racial/ethnic minority and health disparities research. She has also served as Director of Research at the Institute for Urban Affairs and Research at Howard University and as President of the American Psychological Association’s Section on the Psychology of Black Women.
Barbara Bedford distinguished herself as a -ad clinician within the Illinois Drug Abuse Program and went on to direct a regional training center for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Through her leadership, innumerable people in recovery and allied professionals were trained and certified as addiction counselors throughout the Midwest in the 1970s and 1980s.
Carl Bell, M.D., is an international researcher and author of more than 450 book chapters and articles addressing violence prevention, HIV prevention, mental health, addiction/co-occurring disorders, and fetal alcohol syndrome prevention in the African American community.
Peter Bell, an early advocate for addressing the special needs of African Americans within addiction treatment in the Unites States, co-founded and, for fifteen years, served as executive director of the Institute on Black Chemical Abuse. He is the author of Chemical Dependency and the African American, The Black Alcoholic: Growing Up Black and Proud (A Substance Abuse Prevention Curriculum for African Americans) and Cultural Pain and African Americans.
Jeheil C. Berman (1791-1858) was a Black minister who in 1833 organized the Home Temperance Society (HTS) in Middleton, Connecticut. HTS became part of the expanding network of African American Temperance societies organized in the years before the Civil War.
Theodora Binion, the long-serving Director of the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, has led efforts to increase the use of evidence-based practices and to increase the recovery orientation of addiction treatment. She was an early pioneer in advocating cultural competence training for addiction counselors.
Anita Bertrand Bradley is founder and Executive Director of the Northern Ohio Recovery Association and a member of the Advisory Council of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. She earlier served as the Executive Director of Compass House, Inc., in Lorain, Ohio.
Len Bias (1963-1986) was a first team All American college basketball player at the University of Maryland who, after being drafted number one by the NBA Boston Celtics, died two days later from a cocaine induced heart attack. His death heightened awareness of the harmful effects of cocaine but also contributed to public alarm and the subsequent increase in drug penalties that fueled the growth of the U.S. prison population from 400,000 inmates to 2.4 million inmates, inmates who were disproportionately African American men.
Mary J. Blige, the nine-time Grammy award winning singer known as the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” increased recovery awareness by openly disclosing her long-term recovery from alcohol and cocaine dependence.
Delbert Boone used his own past incarceration and recovery from addiction as a foundation to explore the relationship between addiction and criminal conduct. He has consulted with numerous correctional and treatment systems and has produced a series of educational videos on addiction recovery.
Frances Brisbane, Ph.D., is Dean and Professor of the School of Social Welfare, State University of New York at Stony Brook and the Dean of the Black Alcoholism and Addictions Institute. The Institute is co-sponsored by the National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council in Washington, D.C. (founded in 1979) and The Morehouse Research Institute of Morehouse College. In 1985, she co-authored (with Maxine Womble) the book Treatment of the Black Alcoholic. She is a widely recognized leader in the movement to enhance the culture competence of social workers and addiction professionals practicing in the United States.
Claude Brown (1937-2002) is the award-winning novelist best known for his books Manchild in the Promised Land (1965) and The Children of Ham (1976). More than any previous works, these twin novels graphically portrayed the effects of the mid-twentieth century heroin epidemic upon African American urban communities.
Jan Brown, a certified professional recovery coach and the founder and Executive Director of SpiritWorks Foundation, is a leader in the development and delivery of peer based recovery support services. She served as a subject matter expert in the development of the International Credentialing and Reciprocity Consortium’s (IC&RC) peer recovery credential.
William J. Brown (1814-1885), an African-American shoemaker in Providence, Rhode Island, helped organize temperance societies among African American communities of the Northeast during the early- to mid-nineteenth century. African Americans were excluded from participation in most mainstream temperance organizations during this era.
Henry McNeil “Mandrake” Brown (1935-1996), a Chicago-based activist who protested the marketing of alcohol and tobacco products to the African American community, was most noted for being arrested for whitewashing billboards promoting these products and for using zoning laws to removed 700 illegal billboards in Chicago’s African American communities. He co-founded the Citywide Coalition Against Tobacco and Alcohol Billboards and the National Association of African Americans for Positive Imagery.
William Wells Brown (1814-1884) was an escaped slave, abolitionist and temperance activist. He is the author of the first African American novel, Clotel, or the President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States, which was published in 1853.
“Brother” Earl Cannamore used years of charismatic presentations and a series of educational videos (e.g., “Street Talk,” “Cocaine Monkey” and “Goodbye Cocaine,”) to spread the message of recovery to the African American community and beyond.
Ray Charles (1930-2004), legally blind from the age of seven and ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine as the 10th greatest artists of all time, was addicted to heroin for 16 years. His musical career and his addiction and long-term recovery were portrayed in the movie Ray, which won actor Jamie Foxx an Academy Award for the lead role.
Rosylyn V. Cheagle submitted her Master’s thesis at Howard University in 1969 on the subject of The Colored Temperance Movement, 1830-1860. Her historical research is important in documenting the rise of alcohol problems in African American communities and in affirming the existence of strong indigenous efforts to resist and recover from such problems.
Kenneth Christmon, D.S.W., (1953-1994) served as Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work, Rutgers University, where he made important contributions to the study of the historical evolution of alcohol problems in the African American community. His contributions are profiled in the 1995 book, The life and work of Prof. Kenneth Christmon.
H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., FASAM, served as the Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) for 16 years. He has been an extremely positive force in the modern evolution of addiction treatment as an effective advocate of evidence-based treatment practices and the development of recovery-oriented systems of care.
Father George Clements responded to the cocaine crisis that plagued African American communities in the 1980’s and 1990’s by founding such programs as One Church-One Child, One Church-One Addict, and One Church-One Inmate. It was his belief that the church could play a major role in helping to support individual and family recovery within the African American community.
William A. Cloud, Ph.D., Professor at the Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver, has conducted studies with Dr. Robert Granfield on natural recovery from substance use disorders. Among the many contributions of this work was the introduction of the concept of recovery capital and its role in recovery initiation and successful long-term recovery maintenance.
Natalie Cole (1950-2015) is the Grammy award winning singer and daughter of the famed singer Nat King Cole. In her 2000 autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder, she chronicled her addiction to heroin and cocaine and the initiation of her recovery at Hazelden in 1983.
Clarence L. Cooper Jr. (1934-1978), used his personal experience of addiction to author several award-winning books on addiction within the African American community, including The Farm and The Scene. The Farm is one of the few naturalistic accounts of mid-twentieth century addiction treatment at the Federal Narcotics Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965) was the first African American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead role in the 1954 film, Carmen Jones (and the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Life Magazine. Drinking heavily as a result of relationship failures and the lack of availability or substantive roles for African American actresses, Dandridge died of an overdose of antidepressant medication. Her career inspired African American actresses Cicely Tyson, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Whitney Houston, and Halle Berry.
Danny K. Davis, U.S. congressman from Chicago, Illinois, authored a bill in the U.S. Congress to expunge the records of non-violent offenders, many of whom were incarcerated for drug related offenses. He leads an annual recovery rally in Chicago.
Fred T. Davis, Jr., in his role with the National Council of Alcoholism in the 1970s, was an early champion of culturally-specific approaches to alcoholism treatment for African Americans.
Angela Cornelius Dawson, Executive Director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, formerly served as Director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. She played a leading role in helping increase the recovery orientation of addiction treatment within the state of Ohio.
Dr. Louis E. Deere, D.O., M.D., a Dallas-based psychiatrist in long-term recovery, has contributed to the field through his specialization in addiction treatment, his work as an educator at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and through his decades of public education on addiction, addiction treatment, and addiction recovery.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), who played a pivotal role in the abolition of slavery in the United States, was also a leading temperance advocate. Douglass viewed ritualized drunkenness (drinking contests for slaves hosted by slave masters) as part of the machinery of slavery and viewed sobriety as a key strategy in the emancipation and full citizenship of African-Americans.
W.E.B. Du Bois, Ph.D., (1868-1963), the noted author (The Souls of Black Folks, Black Reconstruction in America) and civil rights activist, also was an early supporter temperance. He viewed temperance as a strategy of self-development within African American communities, but cooled his support of the larger temperance movement when restriction of Black drinking became a White strategy of social oppression and control. Dr. DuBois was the first African American to complete a PhD at Harvard.
Sarah Jane Woodson Early, (1825-1907) served as Superintendent of the Department of Colored People in the South within the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union during the 1880s. She was a graduate of Oberlin College and was the first African American woman employed as a college teacher (Wilberforce University, 1858).
Denise Eligan has worked in the Addictions field as a Counselor, Playwright, Grant Writer and National Grant Reviewer for SAMHSA and the Center for Substance abuse treatment. As the former Grant writer for Gary Housing Authority she was awarded An RCSP Grant which led to the development of Miracle Village. This innovative program reduced the barriers for recovery for women by providing recovery services for women and their children in the public housing development. Another unique aspect of Miracle Village was the use of women in long term recovery as recovery coaches.
Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D., Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services, led a recovery-focused transformation of Philadelphia’s behavioral health care system that included a focus on overcoming minority community disparities in health care access and quality. Under his leadership, Philadelphia has become a model of efforts to develop recovery-oriented systems of care.
Reverend Dr. Leon Finney Jr. has devoted his professional life to the revitalization of urban communities. The Woodlawn Organization, which he founded in 1961, opened one of the first detox facilities on the south side of Chicago.
Marc Fomby, CEO of FTC Prevention Services, is a national trainer who specializes in substance use and gang prevention strategies.
Patrice Gaines is a former Washington Post Reporter and prison reform advocate whose inspiring book Laughing the Dark: From Colored Girl to Woman of Color—from Prison to Power recounts her life during and following her addiction and incarceration as a young woman.
Donald Goines (1936-1974) is the author of such novels as Dope Fiend, Inner City Hoodlum, and Crime Partners. Goines joined the Air Force at age 15 and subsequently developed an addiction to heroin. He supported his addiction through criminal activity and through income from his writing. His novels, like those of Iceberg Slim, vividly portrayed the effects of drug addiction on urban African American communities.
Whoopi Goldberg, nominated for an Academy Award for best actress in the movie Color Purple and recipient of an Academy Award for best supporting actress in the movie Ghost, is in long term recovery and overcame homelessness and addiction to become a successful comedienne, actress, talk show host, and activist.
Dwight Eugene "Doc" Gooden, a highly successful and popular major league baseball pitcher, recounted his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction in his 2013 memoir, Doc.
Lou Gossett, Jr., the Emmy (Roots) and Oscar (An Officer and a Gentleman) award winning actor, has been vocal about his own status as a person in long-term recovery. His life story is told in the book, An Actor and a Gentleman (2010).
William “Bill” Green has worked in the addictions field for more than 30 years as a counselor, supervisor, trainer and author of the book, Dysfunctional by Design: The Rebirth of Cultural Survivors (1995), a memoir of his own recovery journey.
Clara McBride-Hale (1905-1992), known as Mother Hale, founded Hale House in New York City, a home for children who were born prenatally exposed to drugs due to their parents’ addiction.
Troy Harden, Ed.D., faculty member at Northeastern Illinois University School of Social Work, is a pioneer in the Rights of Passages Recovery Movement for African Americans initiating and sustaining addiction recovery. He has carried this work to urban areas throughout the United States, to maximum security prisons, and to South Africa.
Frances Harper (1825-1911) served as Superintendent of the Department of Colored People in the North within the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union during the 1880s.
Frederick D. Harper, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Counseling at Howard University, made significant contributions to the historical study of alcohol problems among African Americans. His 1976 edited text, Alcohol Abuse & Black America, exerted considerable influence on the treatment of African Americans during the rise of modern alcoholism treatment.
Carl Hart, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Columbia University, is a neuroscientist known for his research of drug addiction. He received the Pen/E.O.Wilson Literary Science writing award for his book, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-discovery That Challenges Everything You Know about Drugs and Society (2013).
Jimi Hendrix, (1942-1970), one of the most celebrated guitarists, died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 27. The highly publicized, drug-related death of such an iconic figure heightened public awareness of the risks of drug experimentation.
Denise Herd, Ph.D., Professor of Public Health at the University of California Berkeley, has conducted a series of seminal studies on the history of alcohol use and related problems among African Americans, including the landmark paper “We Cannot Stagger to Freedom”: A History of Blacks and Alcohol in American Politics.
Renata Henry, currently the Project Director for the Region 3 Central East Addiction Technology Center, has had a distinguished career in the addictions field, having previously served as the Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and Disabilities with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Director of Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health of the Delaware Health and Social Services
Warren W. Hewitt, Jr. D.P.H, currently the HIV/AIDS Coordinator at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, has also served as the Senior Adviser to the Deputy Director for Demand Reduction in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and as the Associate Director of the Office of Minority Health of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Billie Holiday, (1915-1959) transcended a turbulent childhood to become one of the most popular and influential jazz and pop singers of the 1950s. Her life and music career were plagued be abusive relationships, addiction to heroin and alcohol, drug-related arrests, continual harassment by the Bureau of Narcotics, and repeated efforts at treatment. Her life was vividly portrayed in the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues starring Diana Ross.
Deborah Hollis is the Director of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration, of the Michigan Department of Community Health. She has led Michigan efforts to extend exclusively acute care models of addiction treatment toward models of sustained recovery management wrapped within larger systems of recovery support within local communities.
Cherie Hunter is an international speaker and consultant in the addictions field. After serving 20 years in the Illinois Air National Guard where she co-developed and directed youth drug and alcohol after school programs, she served as Director of External Training and the Center for Criminal Justice at Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) in Chicago. Her work has focused on recovery management in the criminal justice system, the community re-entry process, and the special needs of women.
Samuel L. Jackson, famed actor and film producer, developed an addiction to alcohol and cocaine for which he sought treatment in the early 1990’s and immediately afterwards played an addict in his breakout role in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. He has been in recovery for more than two decades.
Jesse Jackson, Sr. civil rights activist and former presidential candidate, has long highlighted the destructive influences of addiction on African American families and communities. He is known for such inspirational quotes: “Down with dope, up with hope, register and vote” and has been a vocal advocate challenging the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine and its effects on the incarceration of African Americans.
Andre Johnson, President/CEO of the Detroit Recovery Project, Inc.—a prominent recovery advocacy organization, has been a leader in development of recovery support services within African American communities and has also been instrumental in the development of such services in East Africa.
Michael Johnson, is a national trainer specializing in addictions treatment in the criminal justice system. He is the author of numerous workbooks on relapse prevention and recovery.
Solomon Jones used his addiction recovery experience as a foundation for becoming a successful journalist (Philadelphia Daily News) and author (Pipe Dreams and eight other novels). He has also taught creative writing at Temple University.
Roland Lamb, Director of the Office of Addiction Services, Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, has worked in the addictions field for more than 40 years, championing recovery-oriented models of service delivery and addressing health disparities within communities of color.
Allen “Skip” Land, (1942-2013), long-time Director of Clinical Services at Chicago’s A Safe Haven, was an effective leader in the development of extended care and recovery residence programs in the U.S.
Daniel Lanier Jr., D.S.W., while serving as manager of the Employee Assistance Program for General Motors Corporation, called upon the employee assistance field to address the special needs of African American employees with alcohol and other drug problems.
John R. Larkins, D.S.W. (1913-1980), author of Alcohol and the Negro: Explosive Issues (1965), served as Coordinator for Civil Rights for the North Carolina Department of Welfare and in other NC state administrative positions. His book was one of the first to examine the history of alcohol use and related problems within the African American community.
Benneth Lee is an international speaker and consultant specializing in working with gang affiliated African American clients with substance use disorders and those in the criminal justice system. He is the founder of The National Alliance for the Empowerment of the Formerly Incarcerated.
John W. Lewis (1810-1861) served as president of the New England Colored Temperance Society (founded in 1836)—one of the most influential of the early nineteenth century African American Temperance Societies.
Rev. Stephen Lloyd Johnson is the author of Getting Off Crack (1994) and the coauthor (with William James) of Doing Drugs: African American Patterns of Addiction (1996).
John Lucas Jr., former NBA basketball player and former coach of the San Antonio Spurs, has been quite public about his long-term recovery from cocaine dependence. He has spent the past 30+ years providing peer-based recovery support for NBA basketball players who have been suspended for violating the NBA’s substance use policy. He is the author of Winning a Day at a Time (1994).
William L. Mallory, Sr. (1931-2013) served in the Ohio Legislature for 28 years and was the first African American Floor Leader. He spearheaded a statewide initiative to develop The Urban Minority Alcoholism Outreach Programs (UMAOP), later renamed The Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Programs (UMADAOP) that served the Ohio communities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Youngstown, Mansfield, Lorain, and Akron.
Denise Matthews, a long-tenured addictions counselor, was a leader in challenging the confrontation tactics used within early therapeutic communities, positing that such tactics were disrespectful, non-therapeutic, and traumatizing to clients.
Clifton D. Mitchell has served multiple roles within SAMHSA/CSAT, including Chief of the Treatment and Systems Improvement Branch and Coordinator of SAMHSA's Faith-Based and Community Partners Initiative.
Lonnie Mitchell, Ph.D., (1927-1997) led the efforts of the then newly created National Institute on Drug Abuse to recruit and prepare the nation’s addiction treatment workforce. He and his state and local partners forged a system of education, training, and credentialing of what was at the time a primarily “paraprofessional ex-addict” workforce while at the same time recruiting and training physicians, nurses, psychologists, and social workers to collaborate with the “new profession” of addiction counseling.
Malcolm X, (Malcolm Little, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, 1925-1965), the noted human rights activist, recovered from addiction through his conversion to Islam, viewed addiction as an failed escape from oppression, and championed assertive outreach (a practice he referred to as “fishing for the dead”) to rescue African American men and women addicted to alcohol and other drugs.
Annie Moody co-founded one of the largest faith-based addiction ministries at Trinity United Methodist Church in Chicago in 1986—typifying the growing involvement of the church in addressing addiction problems within African American communities.
Philander Moore is the Unit Manager for the Substance Abuse Program Services Unit within the Mental Health Substance Abuse Division at Texas Department of State Health Services, where he and his staff are leading Texas’ recovery-focused systems transformation effort. Prior to his work with the state, Philander served in the United States Air Force for 9 years as a Certified Chemical Dependency counselor.
Stacia Murphy has been a tireless leader within the new recovery advocacy movement, having served as the President of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD, 1999-2006) and the Executive Director of the Alcoholism Council/Fellowship Center, the New York Affiliate of the NCADD (1984-1999).
Gloria Mouzon, M.D., served as the Medical Director of the Women’s Treatment Center in Chicago, Illinois for more than 25 years.
Don Newcomb, best known as the highly successful baseball player (Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, and Cleveland Indians), used his own addiction recovery to help innumerable others. His public statements on his recovery heightened awareness of alcoholism in the African American community and the potential for full recovery.
Huey P. Newton, Ph.D., (1942-1989), co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (1966), later experienced drug problems and died of street violence. His death brought attention to growing drug problems and drug-related violence within African American communities.
Jewell Oates, Ph.D., served as the Executive Director of the Women’s Treatment Center in Chicago for nearly 30 years. She was a tireless advocate for addressing the special needs of women within addiction treatment.
Charlie “Yardbird/Bird” Parker (1920-1955) was the famed jazz musician whose productivity and life were cut short by his addiction to heroin and alcohol. His life became a cautionary tale about addiction and the lost potential of genius.
James W.C. Pennington (born Jim Pembroke, 1807-1870) escaped slavery at age 19 and went on to a distinguished career as a minister, abolitionist, and temperance advocate. His 1841 book, The Origin and History of the Colored People, is considered by many to be the first history of the African American experience. His autobiography, The Fugitive Blacksmith, was published in 1849.
Alfred “Coach” Powell, a nationally known consultant on prevention programs within the African American community, is the author of Message in the Bottle: The 40 oz. Scandal, and Hip Hop Hypocrisy: When Lies Sound Like the Truth.
Joe Powell, is the Executive Director of the Association of Persons Affected by Addiction (APAA) in Dallas Texas and a long-tenured leader within the new recovery advocacy movement in the United States.
Beny Primm, M.D., (1928-2015) was the founder and long-tenured Executive Director of the Addiction Treatment and Research Corporation (Manhattan and Baltimore). He was a forceful public health advocate during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, a highly respected proponent of medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction, and a longtime leader within the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence. He also served as Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment under President George Bush.
Emma Redmond is a key figure in the development of early alcoholism/addiction counselor training programs in the Midwest during the closing decades of the twentieth century.
Don Rogers (1962–1986), a renowned college (UCLA) and NFL (Cleveland Browns) football player, died of a cocaine-induced heart attack on June 27, 1986, eight days after the cocaine-related death of Len Bias. Both deaths heightened social panic regarding increased cocaine use and the relationship between drugs and sports.
Diana Ross, famed singer and actress, announced in 2002 that she was seeking treatment for addiction to alcohol and pain medication. Her public disclosure of her recovery from addiction inspired other women to seek help.
Jim S., M.D., organized the Washington Colored Group in April, 1945—the first African American group of Alcoholics Anonymous in the U.S. It later changed its name to the Cosmopolitan Group to signal that is was a group for “all people.”
Onaje Salim, Ed.D, is Acting Deputy Director, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality for SAMHSA/Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. He as the former director, Georgia Office of Addictive Disease Services, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases.
Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC, a long term educator in the addictions field, is author of Treating the African American Male Substance Abuser and Counseling Chemically Dependent African American Women. In 2013, he edited a book entitle, Substance Use Disorders in African American Communities which included chapters on addiction treatment and recovery written by 13 African American authors.
Afena Shakur, a former Black Panther in long term recovery from cocaine dependence, directs the Tupac Shakur Foundation in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Her 2005 biography is entitled, Afena Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary, was authored by actress Jasmine Guy.
Darryl Strawberry, the famed American League baseball player, recovered from addiction and cancer and went on to become an ordained Christian minister and founder of the Darryl Strawberry Recovery Center, an addiction treatment program in St. Cloud, Florida.
Michael “Cetewayo” Tabor is the author of a 1970 Black Panther pamphlet entitled Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide. His contention that “capitalist exploitation and racial oppression are the main contributing factors to drug addiction in regard to Black people” marked a new era of radical theories on the etiology of addiction and political liberation and cultural renewal strategies for the amelioration of such problems.
Lucy Thurman (1849-1918) served as the National Superintendent of the Department of Colored Work within the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in the 1890s.
Wilma Townsend, a pioneer in the recovery movement, is a Public Health Analyst at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment’s Office of Consumer Affairs. She has championed the development of recovery-oriented behavioral health care and the expansion of peer-based recovery support services.
Calvin R. Trent, Ph.D., retired General Manager. Division of Special Population Health Services for the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, is a leading advocate for recovery-focused transformation of addiction treatment in the United States. Under his leadership, innovative addiction treatment and recovery support services were dramatically expanded within the City of Detroit.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) the famed abolitionist and advocate of women suffrage was also a temperance advocate, but challenged that movement to go beyond pledges of abstinence: “There is one trouble about this temperance work. You get a man to sign the pledge and that is all there is of it, when you ought to get him to work, and carry food and clothing to his poor starving wife and children. Treat them as human beings should be treated and fewer temperance converts would backslide.”
Dawn Tyus, is Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment’s Southeast Addiction Technology Transfer Center located at the Morehouse School of Medicine’s National Center for Primary Care.
Vanity (Denise Matthews) is the singer and actress best known for her performances with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer, Prince. In 1994, Vanity overdosed on Crack Cocaine and suffered renal failure. She stated that Jesus spoke to her at that time and promised to save her if she gave up the Vanity persona. Now in long-term recovery, she is a religious evangelist who regularly leads large revivals in churches with recovery ministries.
Hattie Wash, Psy.D., has over 30 years’ experience providing Afro-centric direct services for African Americans with substance use disorders. She was the first president of the Illinois Chapter of The Black Alcoholism Council and is the author of Cultural Specific: A Model for the Treatment of African American Alcoholics.
Booker T. Washington, (1856-1915), educator, author, and African American civil rights leader, championed temperance and alcohol prohibition as essential for “intellectual awakening and moral revolution.” He saw temperance as an essential strategy for the cultural and economic uplift of African Americans in the years following the Civil War.
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) rose from her status as a former slave to become a journalist, newspaper editor, and civil rights activist. Through her writings she exposed the increase in lynching in the 1890s and challenged Frances Willard, leader of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union for her failure to publicly oppose the practice of lynching and for comments by Willard that provided justification for such atrocities.
Jacob C. White, Jr. (1837-1902) a Philadelphia abolitionist and temperance advocate, urged Blacks in 1854 to avoid alcohol and focus their energies on education and the elevation of the race.
David Njabulo Whiters, Ph.D., is the founder of Recovery Consultants of Atlanta. He consults nationally and internationally (including in Africa) on the development of recovery-oriented systems of care and peer-based addiction recovery support services.
Cecil Williams is Pastor Emeritus of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. He championed community activism of the church and launched a recovery ministry described in his book No Hiding Place: Empowerment and Recovery for Troubled Communities (1992).
Roland F. Williams, co-authored (with Terry Gorski) Relapse Prevention Counseling for African Americans: A Culturally Specific Model (2007). He has trained nationally and internationally on culturally-nuanced approaches to relapse prevention.
Maxine Womble, M.A., was a prominent leader in the National Black Alcoholism Council (NBAC) and co-author of the book Treatment of the Black Alcoholic (with Dr. Frances Brisbane).
Lewis Woodson (1806-1978), a mid-nineteenth century champion of Black nationalism, championed temperance on the grounds that excessive alcohol use was threatening the very future of African American communities by draining its limited resources.
Ednita M. Wright, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Human Services and Teacher Education at Onondaga Community College and faculty member in the School of Social Work at Syracuse University, has focused much of her work on HIV/AIDS, substance use policy, and substance use treatment issues. Her published contributions include a seminal 2003 book chapter entitled “Substance Abuse in African American Communities.”
Dietra D. Hawkins, Psy. D., is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University's School of Medicine and an Independent Contractor at Both and Partners, Inc. Dr. Hawkins is an ally for all individuals and has done extensive cultural competency work across the United States and most recently in Georgia.
Acknowledgement: Support for this interview series is provided by the Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) through a cooperative agreement from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). The opinions expressed herein are the view of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), SAMHSA, or CSAT.
About the Authors: Mark Sanders, a former faculty member of the Addictions Studies Program at Governors State University, is an international speaker in the addictions field and author of four books, including Counseling Chemically Dependent African American Women. William White is Emeritus Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health Systems and author of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America. Their prior co-authored publications include the following:
White, W. and Sanders, M. (2002) Addiction and recovery among African Americans before 1900. Counselor 3(6):64-66.
White, W., Sanders, M. & Sanders, T. (2006). Addiction in the African American Community: The Recovery Legacies of Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X. Counselor, 7(5), 53-58.
Sanders, T., Sanders, M. & White, W. (2006). “When I Get Low, I Get High”: The portrayal of addiction and recovery in African American music, Counselor, 7(6), 30-35.
White, W. & Sanders, M. (2008). Recovery management and people of color: Redesigning addiction treatment for historically dis-empowered communities. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 26(3), 365-395.
Sanders, M. & White, W. (2016). African Americans who made (and are making) a difference in promoting resistance to and recovery from alcohol and other drug problems.
Posted at www.williamwhitepapers.com