By Liz Switzer

January 30, 2023

Developmental psychologist Keisha Leanne Bentley-Edwards, PhD, MA, is an associate professor in the division of General Internal Medicine, the Associate Director of Research and the Director of the Health Equity Working Group for Duke’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, a scholarly collaborative that studies the causes and consequences of inequality and develops remedies for these disparities and their adverse effects. Using a cultural lens to understand social, emotional and academic outcomes, her work examines how gender, culture and racism  influence how the world responds to Black Americans and how this influences health and social disparities.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month has always been a great time for reflection. It’s come a long way. There have been times when there has been more meaning attached to it. For instance, when I was a kid, a lot of the Black History Month activities revolved around safe black history. Things like inventions, or a very modified, narrow perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and even Harriet Tubman, but not too deep into actual history, content or even understanding the context of why these inventions were significant. It was more like you should be proud that there are black inventors, but not really talking about why they invented the things that they did, what the challenges were to get those patents, and why they weren’t rich. What I appreciate about the way Black history is taught now in schools is that you get a bit more of the context.

The thing I enjoy about Black History month is that you can have a balance of things that you can be. This is a great accomplishment. But also understanding why it was such a great accomplishment, or even if it was a challenge, or it was something that was terrible. We can think about what we can do so that those terrible things don’t happen again. I love the knowledge, the reflection, and the fact that every year I learned something new.