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Clark, Kenneth B. 1914–

Kenneth B. Clark 1914

Psychologist, educator, writer

At a Glance

Educational Experience Sparked Interest in Psychology

Brown v. Board of Education

Dark Ghetto: The Frustrations of Kenneth Clark

Continued to Argue for Integration in Education

Selected writings


Kenneth Bancroft Clark is among the most prominent black social scientists of the twentieth century. For many years a professor of psychology at City College of New York (now City College of the City University of New York), Clark achieved national recognition when his work was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1954 ruling that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. That decision was a catalyst for the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and Clark went on to author a series of highly influential books about ghetto life, education, and the war on poverty. After retiring from teaching in 1975, Clark established a consulting firm to assist corporations and other large employers with their racial policies and minority hiring programs.

Clark was born in 1914 in the Panama Canal Zone, the son of Miriam Clark and Arthur Bancroft Clark, a native of the West Indies who worked as a superintendent of cargo for the United Fruit Company. Despite the familys relatively comfortable situation in Panama, Miriam Clark, a Jamaican woman of stubborn courage, insisted that the Clark children should be raised in the United States, where they would get better education and employment opportunities than in Panama. Kenneth and his sister, Beulah, accordingly moved with their mother to the Harlem district of New York City when Kenneth was four and a half; their father, however, refused to relocate to a country where his color would prevent him from holding a job similar to his position with United Fruit. Undeterred, Miriam Clark found work in Harlem as a seamstress and proceeded to raise the children on her own.

In later life, Clark became famous as an uncompromising advocate of integrated schooling, and it is not surprising that his own education took place in the culturally diverse setting of 1920s Harlem. At that time Harlem was home to immigrants of various nationalities, especially those of Irish and Jewish origin, and was also the center of a rapidly growing black population.

Attending classes in New York City schools, young Clark was held to the same high standards as his fellow students, most of whom were white. As he told New Yorker magazine many years later, When I went to the board in Mr. Ruprechts algebra class, I had to do those equations, and if I wasnt able to do them he wanted to find out why. He didnt expect any less of me because I was black. That is a capsule description of the educational philosophy Clark would maintain for the rest of his life: schools must be open to students of

At a Glance

Born Kenneth Bancroft Clark, July 24, 1914, in Panama Canal Zone; son of Arthur Bancroft (a cargo superintendent for United Fruit) and Miriam (a seamstress; maiden name, Hanson) Clark; married Mamie Phipps (a psychologist), April 14, 1938 (died, 1983); children: Kate Miriam, Hilton Bancroft. Education: Howard University, B.A., 1935, M.S., 1936; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1940. Religion: Episcopalian.

Howard University, Washington, D.C., psychology instructor, 1936; Hampton Institute, Hampton, VA, psychology instructor, 1940; worked for U.S. Office of War Information, 194142; City College of New York (now City College of the City University of New York), instructor, 194249, assistant professor, 19491960, professor, 196070, distinguished professor of psychology, 197075, professor emeritus, 1975; chairman of board of directors, Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU), 196264; president, Metropolitan Applied Research Center, Inc. (MARC Corp.), 196775; president and chairman of the board, Clark, Phipps, Clark & Harris, Inc. (consulting firm), beginning 1975.

Awards: Rosenwald fellow, 194041; Spingarn Medal, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1961; Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, 1985. Honorary degrees from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, and others.

Addresses: Publisher University Press of New England, 17 Lebanon St., Hanover, NH 03755.

every race, and teachers must expect the same performance from each child. In such an environment, some students will naturally perform better than others, but not according to racial categories.

Educational Experience Sparked Interest in Psychology

When he finished the ninth grade, Kenneth Clark was faced with a critical juncture in his education. School counselors advised most black youths to attend vocational high school, where they could learn skills appropriate to the limited employment opportunities available to blacks. When Clarks mother heard of this plan she went directly to the counselors office and told him that under no circumstances would her son go to trade school; she had not come all the way from Panama to raise a factory worker.

Instead, Kenneth was sent to George Washington High School, where he excelled in all subjects and grew especially fond of economics. He had thoughts of becoming an economist until he was denied an award for excellence in economics by a teacher who apparently could not bring himself to so honor a black student. Clark remembers this as his first direct experience of discrimination, and it may well have prepared the ground for his subsequent decision to study psychology, particularly the psychology of racism.

Upon entering Howard University in 1931, Clark originally intended to become a medical doctor. In his second year at the all-black institution he took a class in psychology taught by Francis Sumner that changed forever the course of his studies. What this professor showed me, Clark told the New Yorker, was the promise of getting some systematic understanding of the complexities of human behavior and human interaction, the seemingly intractable nature of racism, for example. Clark determined that he would follow the example of Sumner in the field of psychology, and after receiving a masters degree in 1936, he joined the faculty of Howard for a year of teaching.

At that point Clark came to another critical fork in his career. He could have remained at Howard, teaching with either his masters degree or a doctorate, but at the urging of his mentor Sumner and a number of other outstanding faculty members, Clark went on to Columbia University with the express purpose of obtaining his doctorate and teaching at an integrated college. He became the first black doctoral candidate in psychology at Columbia and completed his degree in 1940.

Brown v. Board of Education

Clark was married in 1938 to Mamie Phipps, a fellow psychology student at Howard who would coauthor many of the articles that later made the couple famous. After graduating from Columbia, Clark taught briefly at Hampton Institute in Virginia, a very traditional black college whose most famous alumnus was Booker T. Washington. Hampton was far too conservative a school for Clark, who left after one term rather than teach a form of psychology based on the subjugation of blacks. Following a two-year stint with the U.S. Governments Office of War Information, Clark joined the faculty of City College of New York in 1942, becoming an assistant professor seven years later and, by 1960, a full professorthe first black academic to be so honored in the history of New Yorks city colleges.

As a black psychologist, Clark had always been deeply concerned with the nature of racism, and in the 1940s he and his wife, Mamie, began publishing the results of their research concerning the effects of segregated schooling on kindergarten students in Washington, D.C. Between 1939 and 1950 the Clarks wrote five articles on the subject and became nationally known for their work in the field.

In 1950 Kenneth Clark wrote an article for the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth, summarizing his own work and other psychological literature on segregation. This report came to the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during its post-World War II campaign to overturn legalized segregation. In its landmark 1954 decision declaring such segregation unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court cited the Clark report as representative of modern authority on the subject.

Clark was intimately involved in the long legal struggle which culminated in Brown v. Board of Education, as the courts 1954 desegregation decision was titled. He testified as an expert witness at three of the four cases leading up to the Supreme Courts review of Brown, and his report on the psychology of segregation was read carefully by the justices. Psychological findings were critical to the NAACPs case, in which they asked the court to overturn its earlier decision (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) that separate but equal schooling for the two races did not violate individual rights under the Constitution.

In Plessy v. Ferguson, the court had held that as long as separate schools were of equal quality, they did not inherently deny the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The NAACP challenged the Plessy decision by asserting that, in reality, separate meant unequal for blacksespecially black school-children. In his testimony before one of the lower courts, Clark defined the harmful effects of segregated schooling as a confusion in the childs own self esteembasic feelings of inferiority, conflict, confusion in his self-image, resentment, hostility toward himself. Such effects would be felt, Clark and the NAACP argued, regardless of the relative merits of the schools involved; or, as the court eventually stated, Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

Brown v. Board of Education was not only a milestone in the modern civil rights movement, it also made Kenneth Clark into something of an academic superstar. Clark went on to become the most influential black social scientist of his generation. He received honorary degrees from more than a dozen of the nations finest colleges and universities, but his larger goal of integrated, adequate schooling for blacks had not become a reality even four decades after the announcement of the monumental court decision.

Dark Ghetto: The Frustrations of Kenneth Clark

Americas schools did not suddenly integrate themselves the day after Brown v. Board of Education; in most urban areas the growth of black ghettoes only reinforced the segregation of black and white schoolchildren. Clark understood that in order to improve the education of students of color, the African American community as a whole needed to lobby for a massive infusion of capital and commitment from the federal government and from private citizens. After sparring unsuccessfully with the New York City Board of Education during the late 1950s over issues of segregation, Clark was given a unique opportunity to effect a wholesale reformation of the school system in Harlem. As part of the Great Society plans inaugurated by the administrations of President John F. Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, federal funds were provided in 1962 to create Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU), the task of which was to study and suggest remedies for the causes of juvenile delinquency in the Harlem area.

Clark was appointed chairman of HARYOU, which over the next two years produced a 620-page report recommending, among other things, the thorough reorganization of the schools in Harlem. This would include increased integration, a massive program to improve reading skills among students, stricter review of teacher performance, and, most importantly, a high level of participation by the residents of Harlem in implementing these changes. HARYOU was the first example of what would later be known as a community-action program.

HARYOU was sabotaged by political power bargaining in New York, and few if any of its recommendations were followed. As Clark commented in the New Yorker, As it turned out, all we did at HARYOU was to produce a document. Clarks community-based approach inspired many subsequent programs in the War on Poverty, but with few exceptions they too fell victim to the complexities of urban politics. Although his experience with HARYOU must be counted as a failure in terms of political reality, it did spur Clark to write the book for which he is best known, Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power. In this work, Clark goes beyond his HARYOU research to write what he describes in the introduction as no report at all, but rather the anguished cry of its authoran overview of black ghetto life that has become required reading in sociology classes around the country.

In 1967 Clark formed and presided over a nonprofit corporation known as MARC Corp. (the Metropolitan Applied Research Center), composed of a group of social scientists and other professionals who hoped to identify and solve problems of the urban poor. MARCs most significant work was undertaken in 1970, when the school board of Washington, D.C., asked Clark and his associates to design a new educational program for the citys 150,000 schoolchildren, 90% of whom were black and the majority of whom were poor.

In an era of radical social and political experimentation, the Washington, D.C. school system offered Clark the chance to test his theories of education on a large scale and under ideal conditions. Clark outlined a program similar to the HARYOU program for New York, calling for a massive and immediate upgrading of reading skills, teacher evaluation based on student performance, and community involvement in the schooling process.

Once again, however, real life proved far more complex than theory: the Washington, D.C. teachers refused to make their pay and position dependent on the outcome of student tests, and a new superintendent of schools (elected in 1971) refused to cooperate with the plan and even challenged Clarks central thesis that children of the ghetto could and should be expected to perform at normal levels. Ghetto life, argued this administrator, was anything but normal, and it would be unfair to hold teachers and schools responsible for the performance of students handicapped by living in the ghetto.

Continued to Argue for Integration in Education

Such a claim flew in the face of everything Kenneth Clark had learned and fought for since he was a grade school student. It also contradicted the findings of Brown v. Board of Education: if ghetto children could not be held to the same standards as other children, then the schools they were attending were obviously not equal. Clarks defeat at the hands of political reality did not dampen his belief in integrated schooling, however; nor did he cave in to the demands of the politically fashionable black separatist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He opposed the creation of any organization based on racial exclusivity, including such projects as a black dormitory at the University of Chicago and Antioch Colleges Afro American Institute. As a result, Clark was attacked as a moderate at a time of black radicalism, in some instances receiving personal threats for his adamant rejection of racial separatism.

After his retirement from City College in 1975, Clark and his wife and children founded a consulting firm called Clark, Phipps, Clark & Harris, Inc., helping large corporations design and implement minority hiring programs. The firm flourished, attracting prestigious clients such as AT&T, Chemical Bank, and Consolidated Edison, and Clark remained active in the burgeoning field of minority concerns in the 1990s workplace.

Back in 1982, Clark admitted in the New Yorker that the educational outlook was poor for children of color. Things are worse. In the schools more black kids are being put on the dung heap every year. His wife, Mamie, was even more frank, stating: More people are without hope now.I really dont know what the answer is. Viewing this discouraging prospect eight years later, Clark admitted that even he was beginning to doubt the possibility of racial harmony through integration. I look back and I shudder, he told the Washington Post, and say, Oh God, you really were as naive as some people said you were.

With the commitment of U.S. president Bill Clintons administration to equalize opportunities for all Americans, Clark continued to voice his outrage over the countrys lack of educational progressin academic, social, and psychological termsbut offered a mandate for change in the nineties. In a 1993 essay for Newsweek titled Unfinished Business: The Toll of Psychic Violence, Clark commented: We have not yet made education a process whereby students are taught to respect the inalienable dignity of other human beings. [But] social sensitivity can be internalized as a genuine component of being educated. This is nonviolence in its truest sense. By encouraging and rewarding empathetic behavior in all of our childrenboth minority and majority youthwe will be protecting them from ignorance and cruelty. We will be helping them to understand the commonality of being human. We will be educating them.

Selected writings

Prejudice and Your Child, Beacon Press, 1955, reprinted, University Press of New England, 1988.

(With Lawrence Plotkin) The Negro Student at Integrated Colleges, National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students, 1963.

The Negro Protest: James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Talk with Kenneth B. Clark, Beacon Press, 1963, published as King, Malcolm, Baldwin: Three Interviews, University Press of New England, 1985.

Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power, Harper, 1965, reprinted, University Press of New England, 1989.

Social and Economic Implications of Integration in the Public Schools, U.S. Department of Labor, 1965.

(Editor with Talcott Parsons) The Negro American, Houghton, 1966.

(With Jeannette Hopkins) A Relevant War Against Poverty: A Study of Community Action Programs and Observable Change, Harper, 1969.

(With Harold Howe) Racism and American Education: A Dialogue and Agenda for Action, Harper, 1970.

(Editor with Meyer Weinberg) W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader, Harper, 1970.

Pathos of Power, Harper, 1974.

Author, with wife, Mamie Phipps, of a series of articles on the effects of school segregation. Also author of numerous articles published in journals of psychology and sociology.



Clark, Kenneth B., Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social

Power, Harper, 1965.

Clark, Kenneth B., Pathos of Power, Harper, 1974.


Commentary, November 1971.

New Yorker, August 23, 1982.

Newsweek, January 11, 1993.

Washington Post, March 4, 1990.

Jonathan Martin

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Clark, Kenneth Bancroft

Kenneth Bancroft Clark

American psychologist who studied the psychological effects of racial segregation.

Many psychologists have made history within their profession; few, however, have had an impact on the laws of a nation. Such was the case with Kenneth Bancroft Clark, whose work the Supreme Court cited in its historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling. In the 1954 case, which overturned racial segregation in public schools, the Court referred to a 1950 paper by Clark, and described him as a "modern authority" on the psychological effects of segregation. His recognition by the highest court in the land made Clark an instant celebrity, and on the heels of this success, he set out to develop a prototype community action program for young people in Harlem in 1962. However, political workings brought an early end to his vision. Disillusioned by this experience, Clark penned the most well-known of his many books, Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power (1965), which would become an important text for sociologists studying inner-city life in America.

A world of opportunities in Harlem

Clark was born on July 24, 1914, in the Panama Canal Zone. His father, Arthur Bancroft Clark, had come from the West Indies and worked as a cargo superintendent for the United Fruit Company, a major employer in Central America at that time. Clark's mother, Miriam Hanson Clark, was from Jamaica, and she and his father disagreed over their children's upbringing. Miriam wanted to move the family to the United States, where Kenneth and his younger sister Beulah would have greater educational and career opportunities than they would in Panama. But the father refused to go with them. He had a good position at United Fruit, and under the harsh racism and segregation that prevailed even in the northern United States at that time, he did not believe he could obtain a similar job in America. Therefore Miriam and her two children boarded a boat for New York harbor, leaving the children's father behind.

In New York City, Miriam got a job as a seamstress in the New York garment district, and the family settled in Harlem. At that time Harlem was a mixed community, and besides other black families, the Clarks found themselves living alongside Irish and Jewish neighbors. This experience undoubtedly had an effect on Clark's later commitment to integrated education. In school, he told the New Yorker magazine in 1982, all students were expected to excel, regardless of skin color: "When I went to the board in Mr. Ruprecht's algebra class," he recalled, "I had to do those equations, and if I wasn't able to do them he wanted to find out why. He didn't expect any less of me because I was black."

In spite of this positive educational environment , the rest of the world was filled with people who had low expectations for black students. Hence when Clark finished junior high and had to choose a high school, counselors urged him to enroll in a vocational school. In spite of his strong academic record, he was black, and therefore he could only hope to gain employment in a limited range of jobs, all of which involved working with one's hands. That, at least, was the logic, and to many people it would have made sensebut not to Miriam Clark. When her son told her what the school counselor had suggested, she went to the counselor's office and informed him that she had not struggled to bring her family from Panama so that her son could become a factory worker.

She enrolled Kenneth in George Washington High School, an academic school where he performed well in all subjects. He was particularly interested in economics, and had begun to consider becoming an economist. But when he earned an award for his outstanding performance in the class, the teacher refused to give it to him. This example of racial discrimination, Clark's first clearcut experience with it, would have enormous impact on his life. Because of it, he decided not to study economics, and it may have led to his lifelong interest in the psychology of racism.

Meetings with remarkable menand a woman

Clark had not yet decided to become a psychologist; in fact, when he entered Washington, D.C.'s Howard University in 1931, he planned to study medicine. But in his sophomore year, he took a psychology course taught by Professor Frances Sumner. Sumner's method of psychological study, Clark recalled in his 1982 New Yorker interview, offered "the promise ofsystematic understanding of the complexities of human behavior and human interaction"including insight into "the seemingly intractable nature of racism." Intrigued, Clark switched his major to psychology. Another professor at Howard who had an influence on Clark was Ralph Bunche. Bunche, who would later gain fame as a diplomat and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, taught Clark in several political science courses.

After graduating in 1935, Clark went on to obtain his M.S. in psychology the next year, then accepted a teaching position at Howard. But Sumner, recognizing his great potential, encouraged him to obtain his doctorate at Columbia University. Therefore Clark returned to New York City and enrolled in the doctoral program at Columbia. On April 14, 1938, he married Mamie Phipps, a psychology student from Arkansas whom he had met at Howard. The couple would eventually have two children, Kate Miriam and Hilton. Clark, the first black doctoral candidate in Columbia's psychology program, earned his Ph.D. degree in 1940.

For a short period of time, Clark taught at Hampton Institute in Virginia, an old and highly conservative black college. But Clark had strong differences of opinion with the administration at Hampton, and resigned after one semester. From 1941 to 1942, Clark worked for the federal government's Office of War Information, studying morale conditions of America's black population as the country entered World War II. In 1942, he accepted a position as an instructor at City College of New York (CCNY), and in 1949 became an assistant professor.

Clark and his mentor Bunche had worked together on research for renowned Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal, another future Nobel laureate. Myrdal's study of conditions among African Americans in the United States would be published in 1944 as An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. But his work with Bunche and Myrdal would not prove to be the most significant collaboration of Clark's career; his most important partner was closer to home, in the person of his wife Mamie.

The rising young social scientist

In 1946, the Clarks established the Northside Testing and Consultation Center in Harlem. In time this would become the Northside Center for Child Development, and the name change reflected a shift of emphasis. In the course of their research and therapy for troubled black youngsters, the Clarks had discovered evidence that racism helped to create a pervasive negative self-image. For instance, when given a choice between a brown doll and a white one and told "Give me the doll that looks bad," black children would usually choose the brown doll; told to point out "the doll that is a nice color," they would select the white one.

The Clarks had been conducting such studies for some time. Between 1939 and 1950, they published five articles on the effect that segregated schooling had on kindergartners in Washington, D.C. For the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth in 1950, Clark wrote another article that summed up his and Mamie's research, as well as the work of other social scientists who had studied the psychological effects of segregation.

Up to that time, the law of the land regarding segregated schooling had been governed by the Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In that case, the Court held that the establishment of separate schools for blacks and whitesas long as the schools were of equal qualitydid not violate the concept of equal protection under the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. In practice, of course, schools for blacks were certainly separate, but rarely equal. Furthermore, Clark's research had shown that even if they were equal in quality, the very fact of enforced separation created an inherent inequity.

When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began to challenge institutionalized segregation in the nation's courts, the organization turned to Clark. In three of the four cases that led to the Supreme Court's review of the segregation issue, Clark testified as an expert witness. When the case went before the Supreme Court, the NAACP presented a special paper, prepared by Clark and others, called "The Effects of Segregation and the Consequences of Desegregation: A Social Science Statement." It was the first time in American legal history that a brief prepared by a social scientist, illustrating the human consequences of a law in terms of its social and psychological impact, had been presented before the Supreme Court.

In its ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, the historic 1954 case which struck down institutionalized segregation, the Court cited Clark's work as valuable evidence. More important, it reiterated the theme he had presented as the evidence mounted from his studies: "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Highs and lows, disappointment and hope

On the heels of the May 17, 1954, Supreme Court decision, Clark became a celebrity in the community of social scientists. He was feted and honored at universities around the country, bestowed with honorary degrees and described in glowing terms by his colleagues. A generation later, three young graduate students writing in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science would sum up the extent of his reputation: "We approached our telephone interview with Dr. Kenneth Clark with awe. After all, his contribution to U.S. history had enabled our own education to occur in an integrated society."

For the next decade, Clark went from triumph to triumph. In 1960, CCNY made him a full professor, and he thus became the first African American awarded a permanent position at any of New York's city colleges. The next year, the NAACP gave him its Spingarn Award for his contributions to race relations. With the support of the federal government, Clark in June 1962 established Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, or HARYOU. With HARYOU, he planned to reorganize the schools of Harlem by integrating classes, enforcing higher standards on teachers, and involving members of the communityespecially parentsin the education of its young people. It was to be the prototype for the sort of community-action programs which come into increasing prominence in the 1980s and 1990s.

HARYOU outlined these principles in a 620-page report, which took two years to prepare; unfortunately, as Clark would later say in his New Yorker profile, "As it turned out, all we did at HARYOU was to produce a document." Clark's dream for the organization would never become a reality, and his opposition came not from white racists but from a black politician. The federal government in May 1964 allocated $110 million for the program, and arranged a merger of HARYOU with Associated Community Teams (ACT), a group in which Democratic Congressman Adam Clayton Powell had a hand. Clark and Powell disagreed over who should lead the program, and when Clark accused Powell of trying to take it over for political purposes, Powell claimed that Clark was profiting financially from the program. In disgust, Clark resigned from the organization on July 31, 1964.

As a result of his disappointing experience, Clark wrote Dark Ghetto, which would become the most wellknown of his more than 16 books. In 1967 he formed the Metropolitan Applied Research Center, or MARC, with a group of other social scientists. Three years later, in 1970, MARC attempted to resurrect a program similar to that of HARYOU, this time in Washington, D.C. Yet again, however, power politics defeated Clark's dream. Teachers' unions rejected Clark's attempts to hold educators to higher standards, and the city school board chairman disagreed with Clark's central idea that black children should be expected to do as well in school as their white counterparts. To add to his misfortunes, in the late 1960s, Clark was subjected to scorn by black militants who rejected his integrationist approach.

Just as the decade leading up to the HARYOU debacle had been characterized by triumphs, the decade that followed had proven to be one of disappointments. In 1975, Clark retired from teaching and with his wife and children founded Clark, Phipps, Clark & Harris, Inc., a consulting firm that assisted corporations such as AT&T in setting up affirmative action programs. Clark continued with this work after he lost his most important partner, Mamie, when she died in 1983.

Meanwhile, the idealist who had dreamed of fully integrated schools watched with disappointment as society became more segregated. This time the segregation was not a matter of law, but of choice, and the growing gap between the performance of black students and those in the mainstream only threatened to increase the division. But Clark managed to retain his hope that society could make a change. The key, as he wrote in Newsweek in 1993, was to teach genuine respect for humankind: "We have not yet made education a process whereby students are taught to respect the inalienable dignity of other human beings. [But] by encouraging and rewarding empathetic behavior in all of our children. [w]e will be helping them to understand the commonality of being human. We will be educating them."

See also Prejudice and discrimination

Judson Knight

Further Reading

Bigelow, Barbara Carlisle, ed. Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 5. Detroit: Gale, 1994, pp. 51-55.

Contemporary Authors, Volume 36. Detroit: Gale, 1978.

Guthrie, Robert V. Even the Rat Was White, Harper's (1976): 150-1

Hentoff, N. "Profiles," New Yorker, (August 23, 1982): 37-40.

Keppel, Ben. The Work of Democracy: Ralph Bunche, Kenneth B. Clark, Lorraine Hansberry, and the Cultural Politics of Race. Harvard University Press, 1995.

Latting, Jean Kantambu et al., "Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark: A Biography," Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences, (September 1991): 263-64.

"Light in the Ghetto," Newsweek, (May 31, 1965): 78.

Markowitz, Gerald and Rosner, David. Children, Race, and Power: Kenneth and Mamie Clark's Northside Center. University Press of Virginia, 1996.

McGuire, William and Wheeler, Leslie. American Social Leaders. ABC-Clio, 1993, pp. 99-100.

Sammons, Vivian Ovelton. Blacks in Science and Medicine. Hemisphere Publishing, 1990.

"10 Forces Behind U.S. Education," Scholastic Update, (February 3, 1984): 9.

Willie, C.V., "Five Black Scholars," Change, (September 1983): 27.

Young, Margaret. Black American Leaders. Watts, 1969, pp. 28-30.

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Clark, Kenneth B.

Clark, Kenneth B. 1914-2005


Kenneth Bancroft Clark and his wife, Mamie Phipps Clark (19171983), were arguably the most famous African American psychologist couple of the twentieth century. Their research was cited in the U.S. Supreme Courts 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. During the 1940s and early 1950s, they conducted tests that were designed to identify racial identification and racial preference in young children. One of these experiments came to be known famously as the doll test. The Clarks concluded that racial segregation created psychological damage in African American and white children, although the Court neglected to address the latter issue. However, many scholars, teachers, and social welfare professionals since the 1960s have contended that this research was flawed, particularly the methodology used in the doll tests. They argued that the tests were too limited in their capacity to lead to the conclusion that African American children in particular were psychologically damaged. They maintained that the Clarks posed African Americans as damaged for political purposes in order to gain white support for racial integration.

Clark was born in Panama, the son of Jamaican migrant workers. When he was five, his mother moved to Harlem in New York City with him and his younger sister. He graduated from Howard University with B.A. and M.A. degrees in psychology in 1935 and 1936. His professors included political scientist Ralph Bunche (19041971) and Francis Cecil Sumner (18951954), the first African American to earn a PhD in psychology. In 1940 Clark became the first African American to receive a PhD in psychology from Columbia University; his wife became the second two years later (they had married in 1938). During graduate school, he worked on Gunnar Myrdals (18981987) famous study, An American Dilemma (1944). After teaching at Hampton University, Clark became in 1942 the first African American psychology professor at City College in New York. He remained there until his retirement in 1975.

Clark is best known for his involvement in the Brown case; much of his research was included in his first book, Prejudice and Your Child (1955). To his supporters, his career exemplified a steadfast dedication to integration; his detractors on the other hand ridiculed his integrationist positions. Yet Clark was far more complicated intellectually. He viewed racism as part of a larger problem involving what he called the dilemma of power. Because humanity had never resolved the issue of power versus ideals, human beings could rationalize conflicts between abstract concepts of justice and equality on the one hand, while maintaining privilege and status on the other. In other words, he pushed further W. E. B. Du Boiss (18681963) contention that the problem of the twentieth century was the color line. Clark also disagreed with Myrdals position that racism contradicted the American creed; instead, he argued that beliefs in equality and white supremacy were not contradictory but compatible.

This intellectual framework shaped Clarks research and activism during the 1960s and 1970s, especially his second and third books, Dark Ghetto, Dilemmas of Social Power (1965) and Pathos of Power (1974). The former work used Harlem as a prism to present a bleak and pessimistic view of the impact of ghettoization on the daily lives of its citizens. Many readers interpreted his work as an endorsement of the culture-of-poverty thesis that was in vogue at the time among many scholars in fields such as anthropology, sociology, and education, but Clark presented a much more complex analysis of African American life in the ghetto than he has generally been credited for. He was highly critical of the cultural approach, charging that such analyses substituted for discredited biological theories to explain and justify racial differences. Instead, he argued, for instance, that educational deprivation was a more accurate term to describe what was actually happening in schools once they became predominately poor and black; because of their powerlessness, they no longer received the basic servicesgood teachers, competent administrators, decent buildingsthat wealthier and whiter communities received. In that sense, Dark Ghetto was more of an indictment of American society, rather than solely a critique of African American community life.

In addition to his writings, Clark was influential in both activist and policymaking circles. In 1946 he and his wife founded the Northside Center for Child Development, the first interracial institution of its kind in New York City. His research led to his participation in the 1950 White House Conference on Children and Youth. Aware that the problems of education and poverty were linked, he designed the ambitious Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU) program in the early 1960s as a model for the war on poverty. He was named in 1966 to the board of regents of the New York State Department of Education and in 1968 to the board of the New York State Urban Development Corporation. In 1967 Clark founded the Metropolitan Applied Research Center (MARC), which led a concerted effort to reject the culture-of-poverty thesis through publications and applied programs. MARC also worked to close the educational achievement gap through such efforts as its program (known as the Clark Plan) to reform the Washington, D.C., school system. Finally, in 1971, Clark became the first African American elected president of the American Psychological Association.

Despite his accomplishments, Clark grew pessimistic about the state of racial progress. He thought that he had failed at his most important workHARYOU, the Clark Plan, and his efforts on school desegregationto empower the black poor and close the educational achievement gap. Ironically, the man who wrote so eloquently about the lack of power in African American life concluded that he too lacked power.

SEE ALSO Achievement Gap, Racial; Brown v. Board of Education, 1954


Clark, Kenneth B. 1965. Dark Ghetto, Dilemmas of Social Power. New York: Harper and Row.

Freeman, Damon. 2004. Not So Simple Justice: Kenneth B. Clark, Civil Rights, and the Dilemma of Power, 19401980. PhD diss., Indiana University, Bloomington.

Markowitz, Gerald, and David Rosner. 1996. Children, Race, and Power: Kenneth and Mamie Clarks Northside Center. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

Damon Freeman

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Kenneth B. Clark

Kenneth B. Clark

An American social psychologist, Kenneth B. Clark (born 1914) was the best known and most highly regarded black social scientist in the United States. Clark achieved international recognition for his research on the social and psychological effects of racism and segregation.

Kenneth Clark was born on July 14, 1914, in the Panama Canal Zone. At the age of five Clark's mother moved him and his younger sister to Harlem, New York, where he was educated in the public schools. Clark received his bachelor's and master's degrees at Howard University where he met Mamie Phipps, who became his wife and life-long collaborator and colleague. While at Howard the Clarks began studying the effects of racism on the identity and self-esteem of Washington, D.C., school children.

In 1940 they moved to New York City to pursue doctoral studies at Columbia University and to continue their work on the psychological effects of racism. Clark's early career includes work on the Carnegie-Mydral Project, a brief teaching stint at Hampton Institute while holding a Rosenwald Fellowship, a staff research position at the Office of War Information, and, finally, an appointment to the faculty of the City College of New York. Based on their studies of the pathology of racism and volunteer work with emotionally disturbed children, the Clarks in 1946 established the Northside Center for Child Development.

As a part of their research on the psychological damage caused by racism the Clarks developed the famous "doll tests." Black children in the early school ages were shown four identical dolls, two black and two white, and were asked to identify them racially and to indicate which doll was best, which was nice, which was bad, and which they would prefer to play with. The tests, administered to children in varying communities around the country, showed that a majority of the children rejected the black doll and expressed a preference for the white doll. For the Clarks these tests were indisputable evidence of the negative effects of racism on the personality and psychological development of black children. As a result of this research, Clark was asked to prepare a report on the problems of minority youth for the White House Mid-Century Conference on Youth held in 1950. This report, published in revised form as Prejudice and Your Child (1955), summarized the results of the doll tests and related research and brought the young Clark to the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was preparing to challenge the laws requiring segregation in the nation's schools.

Clark's work for the NAACP played a major role in the Supreme Court's 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education, which declared school segregation unconstitutional. In his testimony in several of the trials and in the social science brief submitted to the Court, Clark and his colleagues argued that segregation tended to create in black children feelings of inferiority, self-rejection, and loss of self-esteem which affected negatively their ability to learn. The influence of Clark on the Court's decision is apparent in the unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren. The Chief Justice wrote " … the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of the child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to retard the educational and mental development of Negro children. …." To support this central finding of the Brown decision the Chief Justice cited (in footnote 11) several social science studies, the first being Clark's Effects of Prejudice and Discrimination on Personality Development.

As a result of his work on the Brown case, Clark in subsequent years became a leading advocate of school integration and an intellectual leader of the civil rights movement, while continuing his research on the effects of racism and urging the application of social science research to the resolution of the nation's race problems. In 1966 he authored Dark Ghetto, a prize winning study of the dynamics of racial oppression and the resulting pathologies of the American ghetto. Clark was also instrumental in the establishment of the Metropolitan Applied Research Center and the Joint Center for Political Studies, institutions devoted to making social science research relevant to the civil rights movement and to the process of social change.

Appointed visiting professor at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of California, Berkeley, Clark was also a member of the boards of trustees at the University of Chicago and at Howard University and was the winner of numerous awards, including in 1961 the NAACP's Spingarn Medal. In 1966 he was appointed to the New York State Board of Regents, the first black to serve on that state's highest education decision-making body. Clark was also Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York and was generally recognized as one of the nation's leading social scientists.

Further Reading

Richard Kluger's Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education, and Black America's Struggle for Equality (1975) contains an analysis of Clark's work on the Brown case. Clark's life and career are profiled by Nat Hentoff in "The Integrationists" in the New Yorker (August 23, 1982). □

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Clark, Kenneth Bancroft

Kenneth Bancroft Clark, 1914–2005, American psychologist and educator, b. Panama Canal Zone, grad. Howard (B.A., 1935) and Columbia (Ph.D., 1940). Clark taught psychology at Howard (1937–38) and at Hampton Institute (1940–41). He was the first African American to be a full tenured professor (1960) at the City College of New York, where he taught from 1942 to 1975, and to be a member of the New York State Board of Regents (1966–86). Clark was the author of a 1950 report on racial discrimination that was cited in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. An early leader in the civil-rights movement, he founded the Northside Center for Child Development (1946) and Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Haryou, 1962). His works include Prejudice and Your Child (1955), Dark Ghetto (1965), A Possible Reality (1972), and Pathos of Power (1974).

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Clark, Kenneth Bancroft


(b. Panama Canal Zone, 24 July 1914;

d. Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, 1 May 2005), psychology, child development, social action.

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