Panama Canal Zone
Kenneth Bancroft Clark was born July 24, 1914, in the Panama Canal Zone. Just five years later in 1919, Clark and his mother emigrated to New York City. He performed well in school academically and eventually landed the opportunity to attend Howard University.
Clark attended Howard University and graduated in 1935. He then went on to Columbia University where he graduated in 1940, earning his Ph.D. in psychology. While completing his graduate studies, he met his future wife, Mamie Phipps. They would later work and make history together.
Shortly after completing school, Clark became the first Black president of the American Psychological Association. He also became the first Black fully tenured professor at the City College of New York. Shortly thereafter, he assisted Gunnar Myrdal in studying America’s racial problem.
The Dolls Test
Once Clark’s wife, Mamie, decided to complete her Ph.D. thesis in the form of a social study, he assisted her. The couple conducted ‘The Dolls Test.’ The test consisted of four dolls (ranging from a dark complexion to a light complexion) being placed before 300 children of all races and complexions. The children were then asked to choose the doll that they preferred. Most of the children chose the lighter dolls as opposed to the darker dolls.
The results of this test enabled the Clarks to determine that racism, segregation, and discrimination contributed to low self-esteem in Black children. Their test results were ultimately used as evidence during the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned segregation in the American education system.
Clark assisted his wife with another endeavor. In 1946, the Clarks founded the Northside Center for Child Development, working with children living in impoverished conditions. In 1950, Clark published a report based on ‘The Dolls Test’ that explained the debilitating results of exposure to racial segregation among Black youth. His publication was cited during the court hearings for the Brown v. Board of Education court case.
Alongside his wife, Clark co-founded Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU). He served as a consultant for various companies and was named the first Black member of the New York State Board of Regents in 1966. Three years after his wife died, he founded Kenneth B. Clark & Associates in 1986 which was a consulting firm, providing aid with race-related issues.
Clark published a number of books that focused on the condition of Black people in America. One of his most notable books is ‘Dark Ghetto’ (1965). Kenneth Bancroft Clark died May 1, 2005. He was 70 years old.
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