Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum
Higher education institutions are among the few places where people of different racial, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds can engage with each other in more than just a superficial way, providing students a unique opportunity to develop the skills needed to function effectively in a diverse, increasingly global world.
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College, is a clinical psychologist widely known for both her expertise on race relations and as a thought leader in higher education. Her thirteen years as the president of Spelman College (2002-2015) were marked by innovation and growth, and her visionary leadership was recognized in 2013 with the Carnegie Academic Leadership Award. The author of several books, including the best-selling Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations About Race (now in a new 2017 20th anniversary edition) and Can We Talk About Race? and Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation (2007), Tatum is a sought-after speaker on the topic of racial identity development, the impact of race in the classroom, strategies for creating inclusive campus environments, and higher education leadership. In 2005 Dr. Tatum was awarded the prestigious Brock International Prize in Education for her innovative leadership in the field. A Fellow of the American Psychological Association, she was the 2014 recipient of the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology.
A civic leader in the Atlanta community, Dr. Tatum is engaged in educational initiatives designed to expand educational opportunity for underserved students and their families, as well as to connect communities across lines of difference. Locally she serves on the governing boards of the Westside Future Fund, Achieve Atlanta, the Tull Charitable Foundation, and Morehouse College. Her national service includes her membership on the boards of Smith College, the Educational Testing Service, and Sesame Workshop.
She holds a B.A. degree in psychology from Wesleyan University, and M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Hartford Seminary. Over the course of her career, she has served as a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Westfield State University, and Mount Holyoke College. Prior to her 2002 appointment as president of Spelman, she served as dean and acting president at Mount Holyoke College. In Spring 2017 she was the Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor at Stanford University. She is married to Dr. Travis Tatum; they are the parents of two adult sons.
When her 3-year-old son told her that a classmate told him that his skin was brown because he drank chocolate milk, Dr. Tatum, former president of Spelman College and a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service, was surprised. As a clinical psychologist, she knew that preschool children often have questions about racial difference, but she had not anticipated such a question. But through conversations with her preschool son, followed by talking to teachers, colleagues and parents, she came to realize it is the things we don’t say and the matters we don’t discuss with our children that find their way into racist dialogue and thinking.