Educator and clinical psychologist Beverly Christine Daniel Tatum was born on September 27, 1954, in Tallahassee, Florida, to parents Catherine Faith Maxwell and Robert A. Daniel. After completing high school, Tatum received her B.A. degree in psychology from Wesleyan University in 1975. She went on to receive her M.A. degree in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1976 and later returned there to receive her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1984. In 2000, Tatum received her M.A. degree in religious studies from Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut.
Tatum began her career in higher education in 1980 as a lecturer in the Department of Black Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. During her teaching career, she held professorships in psychology at Westfield State College and Mount Holyoke College. During her tenure at Mount Holyoke College, she was promoted to chair of the Department of Psychology and Education. In 1998, Tatum was appointed as dean of the college and vice president for student affairs. By 2002, she was appointed acting president of Mount Holyoke College before assuming the presidency at Spelman College.
Along with distinguishing herself as a notable educator, Tatum has enjoyed a celebrated career as a clinical psychologist. She worked in independent practice from 1988 to 1998 focusing on individual and group counseling. She specialized in consultation and training related to diversity and multicultural organizational development. Tatum has also written two widely acclaimed books, Assimilation Blues: Black Families in White Communities: Who Succeeds and Why? and ”Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” And Other Conversations About Race, which was named 1998 Multicultural Book of the Year by the National Association of Multicultural Education.
In addition to serving as president of Spelman College, Tatum serves as a member on many boards, including the Board of the Association of American Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C., and the Woodruff Arts Center Board in Atlanta, Georgia. She is also active in many professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association, American Educational Research Association and the American Association of University Women among others.
Tatum is married to Dr. Travis Tatum and is the mother of two sons, Travis Jonathan and David.