Kenneth B. Clark
Researched and written by: Darius Bowen
I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work..

"A visual experience is vitalizing. Whereas to write great poetry, to draw continuously on one's inner life, is not merely exhausting, it is to keep alight a consuming fire."
"We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs."


            Kenneth Bancroft Clark was one of the most influential and prominent social psychologist of his time.  Throughout his life, he and his wife’s psychological and educational accomplishments prove to be a big contribution to the change of this great nation.  He had a number of first associated with his career. He was the first black Ph. D recipient in Columbia University history.  The Brown v. Board of Education was the first time that social science results had been used for a ruling in the Supreme Court.  Dr. Clark was a key figure in the participation African Americans in the American Psychological Association, being named the first African American to become president of this respected organization. 

            Kenneth B. Clark was born in the Panama Canal Zone on July 24 1914.  His parents, Author Bancroft and Miriam Clark were pretty well off in Panama.  His father was the superintendent for the United Fruit Company, and making pretty good money (Contemporary, 1993).  Despite their economic stability, Kenneth’s mother felt that her children could receive better educational opportunities in the United States. So when Kenneth was about five years old his mother moved him and his sister to Harlem, New York.  Their father decided not to make to trip because he did not want his race to be a deciding factor in his ability to get a job (Contemporary, 1993).  Being a young black child in Harlem back in those days was not an easy experience. Racism was a big part of the American culture, and it was pretty serious.  Despite the hardships of racism, Clark did not receive this type of treatment in school.  Clark reported that “When I went to the board in Mr. Ruprecht’s algebra class I had to do those equations, and if I wasn’t able to do them he wanted to know why.  He didn’t expect any less of me because I was black” (quoted in Contemporary, 1993).  Clark was an exceptional middle school student, but when it came time for him to attend high school he was faced with a small problem.  At that time the school counselors were encouraging most of the black students to attend a trade school to learn a particular skill.  When Kenneth’s mother heard of this she went to the counselor and proclaim that she had not come to this country to raise a factory worker (Contemporary, 1993).  Because of the fuss put up by his mother Kenneth was sent to an academic high school where he did very well.  He especially excelled in economics, and had planed to pursue a career in that field but changed his mind due to racial discrimination by his teacher. 

            After this incident of discrimination Clark became very interested in the issue and why it was occurring.  After completing high school, Clark attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1931.  This was one of the only universities that accepted black students.  Clark entered college with the intent of becoming a medical doctor.  During his second year at Howard he took a psychology class that dramatically change his academic perspective.  His professor, Francis Sumner, brought to light how racial discrimination was having a dramatic influence on human behavior and interaction, and how it was quickly changing the role of black people (Contemporary, 1993).  Clark finished his master’s degree in 1936, and decided to stay and teach at Howard University.  After a year of teaching he felt that his journey in psychology was not done and he decided to get a doctorate in the field.  He went seeking the doctorate with the sole purpose of teaching at an integrated school one day.  In 1940, Clark became the first African American to graduate with a doctorate from Columbia University.  Clark was married shortly after he received his doctorate to fellow Howard University psychology student Mamie Phipps. 

            Now a married man, he pursued a career as a psychology teacher.  He stated at a small school in Virginia called the Hampton Institute.  “This was another traditionally black college whose most famous alumnus was Booker T. Washington” according to the article (Contemporary, 1993).  Clark did not feel comfortable at this school and only stayed for one term.  After a short time working for the government, Dr. Clark joined the faculty of City College of New York in 1942.  Clark was the first African American to become a permanent professor in New York City (Columbia, 2005).  He taught at the City College of New York for thirty-three years.  Clark was also a visiting professor at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of California, Berkley (African, 2005). 

            As was alluded to earlier, Clark was especially passionate about racism and segregation, and this became the focus of his psychological work.  He was dedicated to using social science to try to explain the effects of racism and segregation.  Clark was extremely dedicated to community work, especially if it concerned the youth.  He helped found and sponsor a number of youth community projects and programs.  One of these projects was the Northside Center for Child Development.  This program was aimed to work with poverty stricken children.  Another program was the Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU).  He was really concerned with the effects that racism was having on the self-image of the black youth.  These centers served as testing grounds and a place where the youth could receive some type of therapy.  One experiment they conducted involved the selection of two dolls, one black and one white.  When children were told to “Give me to doll that looks bad” the black children choose the black doll (Notable, 1998).  This was evidence that racial segregation was having a negative effect on the self-image of black children.  Kenneth and his wife continued to conduct such studies, a between 1939 and 1950 had published five articles (Notable, 1998).  All the articles showed the effect that school segregation was having on kindergarten students in Washington, D.C. (Notable, 1998).  The Clark’s research was getting recognition nationwide and this earned them a trip to the Supreme Court.  In 1954 the results of their research was one of the deciding factors in the historic Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.  Their experiments showed that segregation was making the black youth self-conscious about their racial identification.  The decision of the court to rule in the favor of Linda Brown overturned a decision previously handed down by the Supreme Court.  With this court appearance Clark became an instant celebrity.  This court case was the tip of the iceberg in his professional career.  As a result of this court case his findings had become nationally recognized.  He and his wife had practically become heroes to the African American community.  With this star like atmosphere surrounding him, he was offered many awards and prominent positions by a number of organizations. 

            Being a famous psychologist in the United States gave Kenneth Clark a number of publication opportunities.  One of his most popular books dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power published in 1965, and was greatly accepted by the Black Nationalist community (African, 2005).  They love the book because it compared the situations of the black people to those colonized by the Europeans.  He also had a number of other publications that reached the national audience.  Your Child was published in 1953, and immediately followed by The Negro American in 1966 and Crisis in Urban Education in 1971 (African, 2005).  Kenneth Clark also conducted a televised interview with James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. that was placed in a book called The Negro Protest in 1963 (African, 2005).  In the 1950’s, Clark published an article for the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth which eventually led to his involvement in the monumental court case (Contemporary, 1993).  In 1962 Clark and his wife established the Metropolitan Applied Research Center Incorporated.  Kenneth Clark served as the president of the MARC Corp. up until 1964 (Contemporary, 2003).  In 1975 he and his wife started a consulting firm for advice on racial issues.  Kenneth Clark was engaged in so many more organizations, boards and committees that could not name.

            By far his most outstanding work was the research done on the children of Harlem.  The contributions of this research showed that racism was not only having an effect on the self image and racial identification, but also on educational equality.  His research supported the dream that he had worked his entire academic career trying to achieve.  His vision of an integrated school system was made possible by the years of research he and his wife conducted.  Throughout the years Kenneth Clark was considered on of the most successful and eminent psychologist of the twentieth century.  His contributions laid the ground work for future child and developmental research.  His legacy will live on for ever as a result of this.


Clark, Kenneth B. (2005) Columbia Encyclopedia. Sixth edition. Retrieved April 4, 2005 from,

            “Kenneth B. Clark.” (1993). Contemporary Black Biography. Vol. 5. Gale research. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI. Thomas gale 2005. Retrieved April 4, 2005 from,

            Contemporary Authors online. (2005) Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI. Thomas Gale 2005. Retrieved April 4, 2005 from,

            “Kenneth Bancroft Clark.” (1998)  Notable Black American Scientists. Gale Research. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI. Thomas gale 2005.  Retrieved April 4, 2005 from,



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