Martin Luther King: “I am proud to be maladjusted”.


The civil rights leader Martin Luther King addressed the American Psychological Association at UCLA in 1967 at the APA’s Washington Conference in 1967:

It is particularly a great privilege to discuss these issues with members of the academic community, who are constantly writing about and dealing with the problems that we face and who have the tremendous responsibility of molding the minds of young men and women all over the country.

In the speech he criticizes psychology for medicalizing African American rational discontent with poverty and racism as “maladjustment”. He points out that “he is proud to be maladjusted” to racism and poverty and that the “salvation of society is in the hands of the creatively maladjusted”.

Although I can not find the actual recording of his speech, he said similar in 1963 at Western Michigan University:

In his APA speech, King goes onto to specifically outline the role of social scientists role in civil rights and justice. Importantly he shows that Whiteness as well as racism must also be analysed:

If the Negro needs social sciences for direction and for self-understanding, the white society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject.

I think this is still very relevant to critical health psychologists and other social scientists.

Credits: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change; APA

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