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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c523

Chester M. Pierce Papers

Overview

The Chester M. Pierce papers, 1938-2015 (inclusive), 1960-2002 (bulk), are the product of Chester M. Pierce’s administrative, teaching, professional, writing, and research activities throughout the course of his career as a psychiatrist who studied race, racial equity, and extreme environments, such as racism, stress, and polar environments. The papers are arranged in five series: I. Subject Files, 1950-2015; II. Committee and Professional Service Files, 1963-2011; III. Personal and Biographical Files, 1938-2015; IV. Audiovisual Recordings, 1970-1995; and V. Photographs, 1944-1983.

Dates

  • 1938-2015 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1960-2002

Creator

Language of Materials

Papers are predominantly in English. Some papers are in Spanish.

The papers include various examples of outdated language, as the collection materials were created over the course of many decades, during which preferred language and terminology changed. Pierce generally used the term 'minority' to refer to people of non-white backgrounds, focusing on but not exclusive to Black individuals. He also frequently used the terms “negro” and “African American” in reference to Black individuals and communities. These terms appear frequently throughout the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Some restrictions apply (see below).

Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information. Access to Harvard University records and Massachusetts General Hospital records are restricted for 50 years from the date of record creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I and II. Access to patient, health, personnel, student, and personal information is restricted for 80 years from the date of record creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I, II, and III. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information. Audio and audio-visual recordings (as found in Series IV) are restricted to access until such a time as they can be converted to digital media. Recordings may also be subject to the above restrictions; once converted, recordings will be restricted based on the recording’s content or title.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center’s use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.

Extent

12.83 cubic feet (13 records center cartons and 1 flat oversize box)

The Chester M. Pierce papers, 1938-2015 (inclusive), 1960-2002 (bulk), are the product of Chester M. Pierce’s administrative, teaching, professional, writing, and research activities throughout the course of his career. The papers are arranged in five series: I. Subject Files, 1950-2015; II. Committee and Professional Service Files, 1963-2011; III. Personal and Biographical Files, 1938-2015; IV. Audiovisual Recordings, 1970-1995; and V. Photographs, 1944-1983.

Subject files (Series I) constitutes the bulk of the collection, and consists of collected resources, publishing records, teaching records, professional activities records, and research records. The papers in series I were generated and maintained around a variety of topics related to psychiatry and psychology, including extreme environments, race and racism, socioeconomics, sports psychology, polar regions, spaceflight, sleep, healthcare and education access, and education. Committee and professional service files (Series II) includes: professional committee records related to stress, extreme environments, minority education and mental health, polar regions, astronaut selection, and television; residency accreditation review records; student board examination records; conference planning records for the 2002 conference, The African Diaspora: Psychiatric Issues ; and administrative committee records from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Personal and biographical files (Series III) include: curricula vitae and resumes; awards and honors; biographical statements; published articles and newspaper clippings about Pierce; primary and secondary school activity records; and related correspondence.

Also included in the collection are: audio and audiovisual recordings related to race, racism, mental health, stress, and slavery (Series IV); and photographs taken both by and of Pierce in the course of his career (Series V).

Papers are predominantly in English. Some papers are in Spanish.

Biographical Note

Chester M. Pierce (1927-2016), A.B., Harvard College, 1948, M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1952, was Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS), Boston, Massachusetts, Professor Emeritus of Education at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Senior Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston, and Psychiatrist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also served on the faculty of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts. He was the first Black full professor at Massachusetts General Hospital. His research covered wide areas of psychiatry, including extreme environments, racism, and racial disparities in mental health and access to healthcare and education. He is known to have introduced the term and concept of the “microaggression” in 1970.

Chester Middlebrook Pierce was born March 04, 1927, in Glen Cove, New York, to Samuel R. Pierce (1884-1943), a country club employee, and Hettie Pierce (1893-1958). He attended Glen Cove High School, where he was the first Black student to be elected Senior Class President. He attended Harvard College, where he received his A.B. in 1948. After graduating, he attended Harvard Medical School, receiving his M.D. in 1952.

After receiving his M.D., Pierce completed both his internship and psychiatric residency at Cincinnati General Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio. During his residency, he also served in the United States Navy at the rank of Commander, as Neuropsychiatrist at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois (1854-1956). He stayed on in Cincinnati as Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at the Cincinnati General Hospital, and Instructor in Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio through 1960. In 1960, he moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he served on the staff of the Veterans Affairs Hospital Psychiatry Service (as Assistant Chief, Chief, Research Psychiatrist, and Chief of Research in Psychiatry) and the University of Oklahoma Department of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Behavioral Sciences (as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor). In 1969, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he accepted positions at Harvard Medical School (as Professor of Psychiatry), the Harvard Graduate School of Education (as Professor of Education), and Massachusetts General Hospital (as Visiting Psychiatrist). He continued at both Harvard and MGH until his retirement in 1997. At the point of his retirement, he was Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at HMS, Professor Emeritus of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Senior Psychiatrist at MGH. He helped found both HMS’s Global Psychiatry Program and MGH’s Division of International Psychiatry. In 2002, he chaired the program committee for the international African Diaspora conference, the inaugural event of the MGH Division of International Psychiatry. During his time in Boston, he also served as Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Psychiatrist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Pierce’s research covered a wide range of psychiatric topics, including extreme environments (both physical and emotional), such as racism, isolation, stress, disaster, war, social discrimination, and abuse, racial disparities in mental health and access to healthcare and education, and biomedicine and behavior in polar regions. In a 1970 paper, Offensive Mechanisms, he introduced the term “microaggression,” in reference to repeated subtle racial insults that progressively degrade mental and physical health. Pierce was active in numerous national and international professional organizations related to psychiatry, education, child development, and polar research throughout his career. Among many other postings, he served as: President of both the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Orthopsychiatric Association; Founding National Chair of the Black Psychiatrists of America; Chair of the Child Development Associate Consortium Board of Directors; Chair of the Initial Review Group of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Minority Mental Health Center; Chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Education; Chair of the National Research Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Polar Biomedical Research; Vice-President of the National Council of Organizations for Children and Youth; Chair of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – National Science Foundation Antarctic Science Working Group; Member of the American Psychiatric Association’s Assembly of Delegates; and Vice-President of the Oklahoma City Branch of the NAACP. He served in consulting and advisory positions for numerous organizations, including (among many others): The Surgeon General, United States Air Force; the Children’s Television Workshop (consulting on Sesame Street and Electric Company); Action for Children’s Television; the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs; and the U.S. National Commission on Arctic Research. He also served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council’s Polar Research Board. Throughout his life, he received many awards and recognitions, including the Special Recognition Award of the National Medical Association (1974), the E.Y. Williams Clinical Scholar Award of the National Medical Association (1985), the Solomon Carter Fuller Award of the American Psychiatric Association (1986), the Masserman Award of the World Psychiatric Association (1989), the Human Rights Award of the American Psychiatric Association (2015); and honorary membership in psychiatric associations of both Australia and Great Britain. Pierce Peak in Antarctica was named for him, as was the Chester M. Pierce, M.D. Division of Global Psychiatry at MGH. He lectured on all seven continents, served on over 20 editorial boards, and authored more than 180 books, articles, chapters, reports, and reviews.

Pierce is the subject of a 2019 children’s book by Gloria Respress-Churchwell and Laura Freeman, Follow Chester!, which describes his experience as the first Black football player to compete against an all-white university south of the Mason-Dixon line. In the 1947 Harvard game against the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Pierce played in the starting lineup. In his correspondence, which can be found in box 12, folder 15, Pierce stated, “I don’t recall much more about that game than any other I played in during college or high school...My picture in the frame, in my opinion, deserves modest mention only as incidental to circumstances, as they existed, fifty years ago.”

Chester Middlebrook Pierce married Jocelyn Patricia Blanchet (born 1928) on June 15, 1949. They had two daughters. He died in 2016 after a lengthy illness.

Collection Arrangement

  1. I. Subject files, 1950-2015
  2. II. Committee and professional service files, 1963-2011
  3. III. Personal and biographical files, 1938-2015
  4. IV. Audiovisual recordings, 1970-1995
  5. V. Photographs, 1944-1983

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was gifted to the Center for the History of Medicine by Jocelyn Pierce in 2017.

  1. Accession number 2017-199. Jocelyn Pierce. 2017 May 26.

Processing Information

Processed by Amber LaFountain, 2021 December.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access. Items were rehoused and, where necessary, photocopied to acid-free paper. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals when available; titles supplied by the processing staff appear in brackets only on the physical folders. Processing staff also discarded any duplicate publications found in the collection.

Title
Pierce, Chester M. Papers, 1938-2015 (inclusive), 1960-2002 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Author
Amber Lafountain
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
eng
EAD ID
med00369

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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