The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

June Dobbs Butts

Therapist and family counselor June Dobbs Butts was born on June 11, 1928 in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the youngest daughter of Irene and John Wesley Dobbs, one of Atlanta’s most prominent African American leaders before the Civil Rights Movement. Butts is also the aunt of the late Honorable Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor. Butts received her B.A. degree in sociology from Spelman College in 1948, setting a national education record – six sisters graduating from the same college. That same summer, Butts worked with her close friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Then, in the fall of 1948, she entered the Teacher’s College of Columbia University in New York City, where she received her Ed.D. degree in family life education.

Butts’ professional career began in 1950 as a professor in the psychology department at Fisk University. She went on to work at Tennessee State University, Howard University College of Medicine and Meharry Medical College, where she was also a researcher. While serving on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood in the 1970s, Butts met famed sex researchers, Masters and Johnson, who invited her to join their staff at the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (later called Masters and Johnson Institute) in St. Louis, Missouri. There, Butts became the first African American to be trained as a sex therapist by Masters and Johnson. She later served as a visiting scientist at CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) in Atlanta.

Butts authored four book chapters on human sexuality and wrote several articles in popular magazines. Her insightful articles include Ebony magazine’s first feature piece on human sexuality, “Sex Education: Who Needs It?,” which was published in 1977. She was also the author of “Sex and the Modern Black Couple”, which appeared in Ebony in 1991; “Why Some People Consider Celibacy”, in Jet magazine in 1997; and “Spirituality and Sex: A Program for Women in Alcoholism Recovery”, which appeared in the American Journal of Health Studies in 2001. From 1980 to 1982, Butts authored Essence magazine’s most popular monthly column, “Sexual Health.”

Butts resides in Atlanta and is completing her autobiography. She is the mother of three children (one deceased), and one granddaughter.

June Dobbs Butts was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 13, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.076

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/13/2006

Last Name

Butts

Middle Name

Dobbs

Schools

Oglethorpe Elementary School

Booker T. Washington High School

Atlanta University Lab School

Spelman College

Teachers College, Columbia University

First Name

June

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

BUT03

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Mark D. Goodman

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Singapore

Favorite Quote

Hello, Darling.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

6/11/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chocolate

Short Description

Psychology professor and sexologist June Dobbs Butts (1928 - ) was the first African American woman to work on the staff of the renowned Masters & Johnson Institute.

Employment

Master and Johnson Institute

Meharry Medical College

Fisk University

Tennessee State University

Howard University

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Interdenominational Theological Center

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:7600,183:11628,308:12312,318:12844,326:30299,675:32486,715:33215,725:33863,736:38804,819:39290,829:40181,844:42854,930:55516,1096:57017,1117:58439,1146:66023,1283:66497,1291:73064,1344:82609,1552:83107,1559:84435,1594:91284,1650:94524,1708:104244,1925:113061,1991:113329,1996:114669,2025:115004,2031:116411,2058:116679,2063:126370,2212:126790,2219:131475,2267:137500,2331:138094,2341:142605,2425:143430,2441:144180,2454:144480,2461:148080,2556:148530,2563:150030,2583:150705,2593:151005,2598:153555,2649:159694,2708:161020,2727:161530,2734:162040,2740:163366,2758:163978,2776:173614,2878:173942,2883:175910,2910:176648,2919:177222,2927:178534,2945:181780,2971:182040,2976:183405,3009:188800,3196:189255,3205:189710,3213:191075,3235:191465,3242:192310,3263:192895,3275:195365,3335:195625,3342:195950,3349:196470,3358:201475,3451:201735,3456:206830,3479:207425,3487:215502,3631:216404,3643:217142,3654:217716,3663:218126,3669:221765,3700:228480,3834:236315,3921:236990,3933:243365,4055:243740,4061:249801,4104:251553,4146:256168,4215:261064,4325:261568,4333:274242,4516:275591,4551:276159,4566:276727,4575:300920,4986:301442,4994:303704,5085:306300,5105$0,0:5852,261:6622,283:7161,291:8239,309:9240,357:16863,499:21640,516:23202,545:26397,612:26823,625:28101,656:29308,709:29876,719:30231,725:31083,765:47747,1011:57119,1275:71456,1439:85874,1715:86413,1724:102416,1968:104630,2010:121030,2211:135710,2411:142434,2576:155177,2754:162646,2908:162954,2913:180573,3093:183030,3132:191342,3249:192710,3288:194382,3481:221434,3847:224242,3899:234260,4015:247980,4246:249730,4255
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of June Dobbs Butts' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - June Dobbs Butts lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - June Dobbs Butts describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - June Dobbs Butts describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - June Butts Dobbs describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - June Dobbs Butts describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - June Dobbs Butts recalls her father's retirement

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - June Dobbs Butts describes her father's leadership of Prince Hall Freemasonry

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - June Dobbs Butts describes her birthday party with the Prince Hall Freemasons

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - June Dobbs Butts describes her schooling in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - June Dobbs Butts lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - June Dobbs Butts describes her father's experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - June Dobbs Butts talks about the riots in Atlanta in 1906

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - June Dobbs Butts describes her teachers from Atlanta University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - June Dobb Butts recalls discrimination against darker skin complexions

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - June Dobbs Butts recalls her childhood aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - June Dobbs Butts describes her sisters' legacy at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - June Dobbs Butts recalls her childhood friend, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - June Dobbs Butts remembers Columbia University's Teachers College in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - June Dobbs Butts recalls teaching at colleges in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - June Dobbs Butts remembers marrying Hugh F. Butts

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - June Dobbs Butts describes her mother

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - June Dobbs Butts describes her husband's illness

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - June Dobbs Butts describes how she became involved in sex therapy

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - June Dobbs Butts recalls meeting William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - June Dobbs Butts describes William H. Masters' human sexuality experiments

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - June Dobbs Butts describes her work in the field of human sexuality

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - June Dobbs Butts talks about the early research into human sexuality

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - June Dobbs Butts recalls working with William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - June Dobbs Butts recalls her research at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - June Dobbs Butts describes her struggles with alcoholism

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - June Dobbs Butts recalls her work as a public health consultant in Sweden

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - June Dobbs Butts recalls advocating for initiatives to prevent HIV

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - June Dobbs Butts explains her dedication to sexual education

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - June Dobbs Butts describes the responses to her occupation as a sexologist

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - June Dobbs Butts remembers teaching in the Atlanta University Center Consortium

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - June Dobbs Butts talks about writing her autobiography

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - June Dobbs Butts reflects upon the impact of her career on her family

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - June Dobbs Butts describes her therapy patients

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - June Dobbs Butts talks about human sexuality and drug addiction

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - June Dobbs Butts narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

7$5

DATitle
June Dobbs Butts recalls her childhood friend, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
June Dobbs Butts describes William H. Masters' human sexuality experiments
Transcript
So in 1948 you graduated from Spelman University (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Uh-huh, Spelman College [Atlanta, Georgia], um-hm.$$Spelman College, and what did you do after that?$$That summer I worked with Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.], he was my dear friend. We had a lot of sociology classes together. I called him M.L. as everybody did in Atlanta [Georgia], who knew him. His brother, younger brother was A.D. Williams King [Alfred Daniel Williams King], named for his grandfather [Adam Daniel Williams]. And so we called him A.D., and we called Martin Luther King, M.L. And his sister Christine [HistoryMaker Christine King Farris] is still my friend today. And they became neighbors when I was thirteen. And once, a couple of summers we'd just played Monopoly all the time, a couple of girls who were cousins, the King children, and Mattiwilda [HistoryMaker Mattiwilda Dobbs Janzon] and myself. And we would rotate and whoever was the hostess or host would be serving lunch. We'd do our little chores in the morning and then we'd play Monopoly in the afternoon. And A.D. started cheating. He had an extra Monopoly set and so we would pass me hundred dollar bills and I'd become monopolist you know. When M.L. found out about it he was just so outraged he cuffed his brother he hit him across the face you know and I was really afraid he was going to hit me but he didn't. And Mattwilda was furious you know. And I thought I was funny at first, but then I, I saw that they were really angry. Christine wasn't angry, and the two girls, who were cousins, were annoyed. They thought it was stupid, but they weren't angry. But Mattiwilda and M.L. were put out with us for cheating.$$Now what was M.L. like during, because this is 1949 or '48 [1948], he's a child (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) He was, he was such a darling, he was very sincere, he was very honest and he was trying to find where he was, in his own self.$$Would, did you, at this time because all of you were young adults, did you talk about race relations, racial issues?$$Oh all the time.$$What were your conversations?$$Well we were trying to understand, how such hatreds got perpetuated, why people couldn't get passed some of the biases of their ancestors or their relatives and, and, and we were trying to do something within our lives to, to, my father [John Wesley Dobbs] used to put it like this, he said, "Strike a blow for the race," that was his little slogan. Well I used to think, I don't want to strike a blow. I'd like to create something, or to do something that brings the kind of harmony or happiness or release something you know. But the idea to strike a blow for the race. Well he had such a rough time working with people who would, would tell him, "We're gonna throw you off this train," you know. He never got thrown off but he met with brutality. And he had all kinds of trouble getting loans and that kind of thing, thing from businesses. Like when they were building the Masonic Temple [Prince Hall Masonic Temple and Tabor Building, Atlanta, Georgia], which is still standing on Auburn Avenue now. They--$$Well as a group of teenagers did you have any concept that you, did you all decide together that we are going to do something to improve?$$Oh we were, we were all possessed of that. When I finished college, M.L. and I finished in 1948, Christine was in the same class, even though she was a year older. He had skipped several grades and I had skipped the twelfth grade. And our class of '48 [1948], at Spelman and Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia] we did more to get education, than any other class before or since. He was just a leading light among us. But there were more people who were turned on, to go as far as you could. Whether was law, medicine, journalism whatever, get a terminal degree and then do what you wanted to do. And his goal was to finish his degrees, get his ministerial degree, his doctorate, and marry someone whom he really loved and go wherever the first church called him. And my best friend was engaged to him, and she said, "I can't do that, I'll go crazy. I can't live in any little hick town, let's go back to Atlanta [Georgia]." And he said no, "I've got to do this 'cause God wants me to do this," so he knew exactly what he wanted to do. And it's annoying to me when I read, white authors who say--and they've never had an interview with anybody in the King family--and they say oh he wanted to do this, or he was very depressed, or these were his suicidal tendencies.$$What was your best friend's name, that he?$$Juanita [Juanita Sellers Stone], Juanita Sellers, she's now Stone. Yeah and, and she couldn't marry him. But the weekend they broke up his, his one of his good friends that, who was a doctorial stu-, who was a ministerial student with him at Crozer [Crozer Theological Seminary, Upland, Pennsylvania], sent him a telegram, "Have I got a girl for you," come to Boston [Massachusetts]. And he met Coretta [Coretta Scott King] and she was made for him, they were wonderful.$Had Kinsey's Report ['Sexual Behavior in the Human Male' and 'Sexual Behavior in the Human Female'] come out before that (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) His was more verbal, he had interviewed people. He'd interviewed people in prison, he'd interviewed people that he could get to, college campuses. He was criticized for his sampling, because, it wasn't that he tried to be selective, he couldn't get to people at first. And he thought if he just got to, whomever he could get to, that would be great. But then people started saying, maybe people who'd been in prison act like that, but my wife wouldn't do that. Or my daughter wouldn't do that, and that kind of thing. So Masters [William H. Masters] wanted to study with as much scientific equipment as he could. What happens to the brain, what happens to your breathing, what happens to the heart, what happens to your respiration, during orgasm, during excitement, during the calming down period? And so he wanted a little laboratory and he talked first to his people in medicine, where he was at Washington University [Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri]. He was an OB/GYN [obstetrics and gynecology] doctor. And they told him, "Yes he could get permission, but where was he gone get the people," they weren't sure, they didn't know that anybody would come into a lab, get hooked up with electros and masturbate. Or have intercourse or something like that. So he, they said, "Ask the police permission first if you're gonna get maybe prostitutes." So they had red light district in St. Louis [Missouri] in those days, this was in the '50s [1950s]. He was inspired by Kinsey's [Alfred C. Kinsey] work. And he got permission from the police to set up a lab where he could do sexual experiments. And he decided after he interviewed one or two prostitutes, he said there was one woman who was very intelligent. And she asked him, "Shall I fake it," he said, "I don't understand what do you mean?" She said, "Well in my business we try to get the man, happy and satisfied, as quickly as possible to get paid. I don't allow myself to enjoy it." And he didn't know that, she said, "I fake it," he said oh (laughter), she said, "You need an interpreter, of women." 'Cause there are differences you see. So, I mean a male orgasm is kind of hard to miss, you know when that's happening, and it's coupled with ejaculation, usually, not always, but usually. And so because sometimes the ejaculate can go retrograde, go back into the bladder. And there some men who know how to do this. It's taught to younger guys, this is a way of contraception, that make the ejaculate go back into the bladder. Our Western men don't know how to do it, but urologist don't want them to try learn, 'cause it weakens the bladder, it's not good for the bladder. But it is contraceptive. So at any rate, the human sexuality has never been studied and it's so broad it's, it's, such a landscape. And if you try to be moralistic and say those who are married, those who are Christian, you know what I'm saying, isn't it ridiculous. We're talking about human sexuality.$$So (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And we're saying you gotta be heterosexual. So it's much bigger than that. And Masters was trying to study something, and he wasn't saying people have to be heterosexual. He was studying who people were and what they did and had they ever had an orgasm. And how would they define it, what did they think about it? And if they were with a partner, how did they feel? And if they were by themselves how did they feel, so how they felt was a big part. And they had electros all over the body, that would register whether they achieved orgasm or not. But then they'd ask them how they felt. What they found with women, women were much more variable, all over the place than men. Men were pretty much alike, a bank president, a sharecropper, whoever they were male first. And they were pretty much alike. But women came in about three varieties, and all that's interesting research. Masters wanted to come back and do more research with electronic equipment. It would have been so beautiful, it's never been done, the government never gave him any money for research.