Lawrence, Margaret Morgan

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Lawrence, Margaret Morgan

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Dr. Margaret Morgan Lawrence was born in Harlem, New York and raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After graduating from the local all-black high school at the age of 14, she moved to Harlem to further her education at the prestigious Wadleigh High School for Girls. Two years later she graduated with a scholarship to attend Cornell University as a pre-med student.

As the only black student on campus, Lawrence was not permitted to live in the dorms, and despite graduating with a nearly perfect academic record, she was denied entrance to Cornell’s medical school. In 1940, Lawrence graduated from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Three years later, she earned a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University. In 1948, she became the first African American to be certified in psychoanalysis at Columbia University’s Columbia Psychoanalytic Center.

Lawrence began her career teaching pediatrics and public health at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1963, she became a founding member of the Harlem Family Institute, a psychoanalyst training institute. Until her retirement in 1984, she was also a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. For over two decades, Lawrence served as chief of the Developmental Psychiatry Center for Infants and Young Children and their Families at Harlem Hospital Center.

Lawrence was a member of the Peace Fellowship of The Episcopal Church and the recipient of an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University. Her remarkable career was celebrated by one of her daughters, Dr. Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, in a 1998 biography, Balm in Gilead: Journey of a Healer.

Margaret Morgan Lawrence married Charles Radford Lawrence II on June 5, 1938, while she was in medical school, and together they had three children. She died in Massachusetts on December 4, 2019 at the age of 105.

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