- Purchase/rental options available:
The popularization of psychoanalysis after World War II provided African American writers such as Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison with a new paradigm for exploring the effects of racial discrimination on the formation of black identity. Both were instrumental in helping the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham establish the Lafargue Clinic in 1946, the first community outpatient "mental hygiene" clinic in Harlem. I argue that the Lafargue Clinic's improvisations on psychoanalysis can best be understood as a type of blues epistemology, strategically revising and inverting traditional tropes. My approach uncovers the clinic's innovative use of patient narratives as an essential therapeutic strategy to help African American clients reframe their encounters with racial discrimination as symptomatic of a diseased democracy.