June Jackson Christmas, a psychiatrist who broke limitations as a Black lady by heading New York Metropolis’s Division of Psychological Well being and Retardation Companies below three mayors, died on Sunday within the Bronx. She was 99.
Her daughter, Rachel Christmas Derrick, mentioned she died in a hospital of coronary heart failure.
As a metropolis commissioner, as chief of rehabilitation providers at Harlem Hospital Heart, and in her position overseeing the transition of the U.S. Division of Well being, Schooling and Welfare to a Democratic administration for President-elect Jimmy Carter, Dr. Christmas ardently superior her skilled agenda.
Her priorities included enhancing psychological well being providers for older folks, serving to folks deal with alcoholism, and helping kids ensnared within the bureaucracies of foster care and the authorized system. She additionally sought to ease the transition of sufferers from being warehoused in state psychological hospitals to dwelling independently.
Dr. Christmas publicly championed civil rights from an early age. She staged a sit-down strike at a segregated curler skating rink in Cambridge, Mass., when she was 14, and she or he later broke floor as a Black lady in schooling, employment and housing.
June Antoinette Jackson was born on June 7, 1924, in Boston. Her mom, Lillian Annie (Riley) Jackson, was a homemaker who had labored on the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston throughout World Struggle II and as a state tax assessor. Her father, Mortimer Jackson, was a postal employee who fought for the development of Black staff within the union and civil service hierarchy.
At college, June and different Black college students had been by no means requested to determine their ancestry on “I Am an American Day” — a snub she by no means questioned, she mentioned in an interview carried out in 2016 for StoryCorps by her son Vincent, as a result of “I feel it was the truth of how we simply accepted racism.”
Her father, she recalled in the identical interview, “would at all times get the very best rating, usually good, and by no means be provided the place.”
One yr, she mentioned, she and a classmate who was additionally Black offered extra Woman Scout cookies than anybody else of their troop, however the minister’s spouse who headed the troop knowledgeable her that she wouldn’t have the ability to declare her prize in one other city as a result of “these camps, they’ve actually by no means taken any Negroes.”
Her father’s recommendation? “Be twice nearly as good as all people else,” she recalled.
However, she added, “It appears to me that I’ve usually been in locations the place in the event you needed to make life higher for your self, you needed to work to make life higher for everyone.”
She earned a Bachelor of Science diploma in zoology in 1945 from Vassar Faculty in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the place she was one of many first three girls who recognized as Black to graduate. She went on to obtain a medical diploma in psychiatry from the Boston College Faculty of Medication in 1949.
She did her internship at Queens Normal Hospital and her residency at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. She acquired a certificates in psychoanalysis from the William Alanson White Institute, additionally in Manhattan.
In 1953, she married Walter Christmas, a founding father of the Harlem Writers Guild, who handed publicity for a variety of companies and organizations and at one level was public relations director for the Coca-Cola Bottling Firm of New York. He died in 2002.
Along with their daughter, a journey author, she is survived by their son Gordon, a photographer, and 4 grandchildren. Their son Vincent, who labored for the town psychological well being company his mom as soon as headed, died in 2021.
Dr. Christmas initially practiced privately, then labored as a psychiatrist for the Riverdale Youngsters’s Affiliation in New York from 1953 to 1965.
In 1964 she based Harlem Rehabilitation Heart, a Harlem Hospital program, which gained a nationwide status for offering vocational coaching and psychiatric assist to psychiatric hospital sufferers who had returned to their communities after being discharged. From 1964 to 1972, she was additionally the principal investigator on analysis initiatives for the Nationwide Institute of Psychological Well being.
In 1972, after serving briefly as a deputy commissioner, Dr. Christmas was appointed commissioner of the Division of Psychological Well being and Retardation Companies by Mayor John V. Lindsay. She was reappointed in 1973 by Mayor Abraham D. Beame (she took a two-month go away to go Jimmy Carter’s 12-member transition workforce) and once more in 1978 by Mayor Edward I. Koch.
She was a scientific professor of psychiatry at Columbia College’s Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, a professor of behavioral science on the Metropolis College of New York Faculty of Medication and resident professor of psychological well being coverage on the Heller Graduate Faculty of Social Welfare of Brandeis College in Massachusetts.
In 1980, Dr. Christmas grew to become the primary Black lady president of the American Public Well being Affiliation. She was additionally a founding father of the City Points Group, a analysis institute, and served as its govt director from 1993 to 2000.
Reflecting on her profession in 2020, Dr. Christmas concluded that “the barrier of racism is larger than being a lady.”
“I interviewed for a residency, and the person who was interviewing me mentioned he was involved that I, as an African American lady, can be too sexually stimulating to males sufferers,” she advised The Ladies in Medication Legacy Basis.
“After I was searching for an workplace in Manhattan within the Sixties, no less than a 3rd of the brokers I spoke with on the phone mentioned they may assure me that there have been no Blacks or Puerto Ricans within the constructing,” she added. “It was so laborious to discover a place to dwell that my husband and I wound up going to court docket, the place we prevailed.”
Having been uncovered to racial discrimination since childhood, Dr. Christmas mentioned, she was imbued with a dedication to attenuate prejudice. She grew to become a psychiatrist, she recalled, as a result of she believed that “possibly if I went into psychiatric medication I may train folks to not be racist.”
Her technique was individualistic, she mentioned, invoking a proverb — “Every one, train one” — rooted in American slavery when Black folks had been denied an schooling and literacy was conveyed from one particular person to a different.