Kenneth Clark (psychologist)

From Academic Kids


Kenneth Bancroft Clark (July 24, 1914ĖMay 1, 2005), was an African American psychologist who along with his wife Mamie Clark founded the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem. They were known for their 1940s experiments using dolls to study children's attitudes about race.

He was born in the Panama Canal Zone where his father worked as an agent for the United Fruit Company. When he was five, his mother took him and his younger sister to U.S. to live in Harlem in New York City.

Clark attended Howard University, where his professors included Ralph J. Bunche. During his time there, he particpated in research in support of a study of race relations by Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdalís - "An American Dilemma."

In 1940, Clark became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University; his wife was the second. Their work grew out of Mamie's master's degree thesis and yielded 3 papers between 1939 and 1940.

The Clarks testified as expert witnesses in several school desegregation cases including Briggs v. Elliott, one of the cases that were later combined into the famous Brown v. Board of Education, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned racial segregation in public education. According to Woody Klein's Toward Justice and Humanity: The Writings of Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, Scholar of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision, this was the first time the Court ever admitted social science studies as hard evidence.

Kenneth Clark became the first African American tenured full professor at the City College of New York in 1960, and later was the first African American on the New York State Board of Regents and the first African American to be president of the American Psychological Association.

Clark retired from City College in 1975, but remained an active advocate for integration. He died in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York from cancer.

The Clarks' son Hilton was a leader of the Society of Afro-American Students during protests at Columbia University in 1968.


  • "I think that white and blacks should be taught to respect their fellow human beings as an integral part of being educated."
  • "A racist system inevitably destroys and damages human beings; it brutalizes and dehumanizes them, blacks and whites alike."
  • From a 1984 New York Times interview: "I believed in the 1950s that a significant percentage of Americans were looking for a way out of the morass of segregation. It was wishful thinking."
  • "It took me 10 to 15 years to realize that I seriously underestimated the depth and complexity of Northern racism. ... In the South, you could use the courts to do away with separate toilets and all that nonsense. We havenít found a way of dealing with discrimination in the North."


  • Prejudice and Your Child (1955)
  • Dark Ghetto (1965)
  • A Possible Reality (1972)
  • Pathos of Power (1975)

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