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Kenneth Bancroft Clark (July 24, 1914–May 1, 2005) and Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983), were a husband-and-wife team of African American psychologists who founded the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem and the organization Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU). They were known for their 1940s experiments using dolls to study children's attitudes about race, which grew out of Mamie Clark's master's degree thesis.

The Clarks testified as expert witnesses in 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.

Kenneth ClarkEdit

Kenneth Clark 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 participated in research in support of a study of race relations by Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal’s - "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.

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. He was also the first African American to be president of the American Psychological Association.

Preceded by:
George Albee
Kenneth B. Clark elected APA President
Succeeded by:
Anne Anastasi

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.

The doll experimentsEdit

The Clarks' doll experiments grew out of Mamie's master's degree thesis and yielded 3 papers between 1939 and 1940. They found that Black children often preferred to play with white dolls over black; that, asked to fill in a human figure with the color of their own skin they frequently chose a lighter shade than was accurate, and that they viewed white as good and pretty, but black as bad and ugly.[1] They viewed this as evidence of internalized racism caused by stigmatization.

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 advocated several different methods of improving schools in black ghettos, and in 1964 persuaded the Johnson administration to back his ideas with $110 million in federal funding.[2]


  • "I think that whites 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 haven’t 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)

References Edit

  1. Segregation Ruled Unequal, and Therefore Unconstitutional, in Psychology Matters, American Psychological Association. Undated. Accessed 15 July 2006.
  2. "Kenneth Clark, Who Fought Segregation, Dies," The New York Times, May 2, 2005

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