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Civil Rights and the Power of Psychology : Hastings’ African-American Power Couple - Kenneth & Mamie Clark
Civil Rights and the Power of Psychology : Hastings’ African-American Power Couple - Kenneth & Mamie Clark
By : Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber
Kenneth & Mamie Clark
As a town with: one of the largest middle class African-American communities in The United States, the first African American millionaires (Madame C.J Walker) and many famous jazz singers like Cab Calloway and Hazel Scott (Click here to read about them and other African-American entertainers of Greenburgh, (https://www.greenburghny.com/DocumentCenter/View/6377/Making-Martin-Luther-King-Jrs-Dream-Come-Alive-the-Success-Story-of-the-Parkway-Homes-Parkway-Gardens-Community ) and home to the nationally recognized civil rights leader, Vernon Jordan Jr, Greenburgh is very proud of the accomplishments of its African- American community!
Many of its residents like: Cab Calloway, Hazel Scott, Moms Mabley and Slappy White, get a lot of recognition since they were hugely successful entertainers, but, some of them who weren’t entertainers like, for example the real estate developer David Bogdanoff, ( Click here to read about him https://greenburghny.com/DocumentCenter/View/9744/The-Unsung-Hero-the-developer-who-was-instrumental-in-the-creation-of-the-Theodore-Young-Community-Center-and-Lois-Bronz-Childrens-Center )remain relatively unsung. This week, we would like to shine a light on two of these unsung heroes, a power couple who Greenburgh and the country at large owe a huge debt of gratitude, the two highly influential African-American psychologists Kenneth & Mamie Clark.
Kenneth Bancroft Clark was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1914, but was raised in Harlem, New York City. He graduated from New York's George Washington High School in 1931. After graduation, he attended Howard University, where he earned his Bachelors and his Master’s in psychology. It was also while there that he met Mamie Phipps (Balfour in Microsoft Encarta 1993-2003).
Mamie Phipps was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1917. She decided to conduct her master’s thesis on, "The Development of Consciousness of Self in Negro Pre-School Children" (Butler, 2009). Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps became friends and collaborated on much of their research (Butler, 2009).
Also while at Howard, Kenneth Clark led many protests against segregation. While studying together and collaborating as co-researchers at Howard, Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps fell in love and got married (Balfour in Microsoft Encarta 1993-2003).
When Kenneth and Mamie Clark both graduated, they went to Columbia University, where they earned their PHDS, becoming the first and second African- American students at Columbia to do so (Balfour in Microsoft Encarta 1993-2003). Even after graduation they continued doing psychological research. The Clarks spent most of their lives studying the effects of segregation on African-American children (Warren 2023). Specifically, they studied how segregation effected the self-concept of these children. In the Clarks’ experiments, 200 African-American children were given a choice between white or black dolls.
The dolls used during the famous “doll study”
Even as early as three years -old an overwhelming majority of these children chose the white doll. From this the Clarks concluded that segregation was psychologically damaging.
These experiments and their results were presented to the U.S Supreme Court in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas (1954) which ruled that racially segregated education facilities were not “separate but equal” , but rather inherently unequal, and therefore, unconstitutional.
Unfortunately although Mr. and Mrs. Clark collaborated on almost all of their research, while Kenneth became a professor at City College (https://aaregistry.org/story/kenneth-b-clark-pioneering-educator-and-psychologist/) Mamie had extensive trouble finding employment as she not only had to deal with the systemic racism of the era, like her husband did, but in addition to that, she also had to deal with systemic sexism (Butler, 2009 ). It was extremely discouraging to her that she was having such difficulty. She eventually got a job analyzing data about nurses for the American Public Health Association, but found this humiliating because there were several white men and women with far less qualifications than she had who were hired with much higher salaries (Butler, 2009).
In 1946, Kenneth and Mamie Clark founded the Northside Child Development Center in Harlem to serve the needs of emotionally disturbed children(at the time the only mental health clinic in Harlem serving the African American community). This mental health clinic is still in operation today. Also, the legacy of Kenneth Clark lives on in the books he wrote: Prejudice and Your Child (1953), The Negro American (1966), and Crisis in Urban Education (1971) (Balfour in Microsoft Encarta 1993-2003). They lived in a house on 17 Pinecrest Drive in Greenburgh’s Village of Hastings (https://hastingshistoricalsociety.org/notable-residents/).
Mamie Clark passed away in 1983 (Butler, 2009) and Kenneth Clark passed away in 2005 (Warren 2023).
Within Hastings-on-Hudson, only a single, privately funded plaque outside of the Clarks’ former residence commemorates their lives and work, but there is currently an effort underway to give the Clarks the wider recognition they deserve. The plan is to co-name a portion of Mount Hope Blvd (from Farragut Avenue to Lefurgy Avenue, connecting the Farragut Middle School/High School Complex to Hillside Elementary School) “Drs. Mamie and Kenneth Clark Way” and to place historic panels similar to that which currently exist in Ardsley talking about “The Grand Reconnaissance” on each end of Drs. Mamie and Kenneth Clark Way. The Hastings panels will have biographies of the Clarks and will also highlight their work as psychologists describing their famous doll study submitted in Brown v. Board of Ed. Hastings’ connection to the Clarks and to Minnijean Brown ( a member of the Little Rock Nine who lived in Hastings with the Clarks from 1958-59.) will be included. The naming has been fully funded and will be complete in October of this year. However, construction and installation of the panels still has to be funded.
In conclusion, Greenburgh is very proud of the accomplishments of its African- American community! Many of its residents like: Cab Calloway, Hazel Scott, Moms Mabley and Slappy White, get a lot of recognition since they were hugely successful entertainers, in contrast to the entertainers, some members of this community have been relatively unsung. Among the unsung are two highly influential African- American psychologists whose work helped desegregate public schools all across America, Kenneth and Mamie Clark. Finally, they are getting the recognition they deserve!
Previous Slices of History include:
About the Authors:
We are both Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.
I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to help me find employment, you can contact me at email@example.com.
I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at email@example.com.
Two Interviews with the authors:
AAREG.org. (2023, July 24). Today's Articles People, Locations, Episodes-Kenneth B. Clark, Educator, and Psychologist. Retrieved from AAREG.ORG: https://aaregistry.org/story/kenneth-b-clark-pioneering-educator-and-psychologist/
Balfour, L. in Microsoft Encarta. (1993-2003, (Not Given) (Not Given)). Encarta Encyclopedia. Redmond, Washington, United States of America
Butler, S. (2009). Mamie Katherine Phipps Clark (1917–1983). The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. (http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=2938)
Hasting Historical Society. (2023, (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). Notable Residents. Retrieved from Hasting Historical Society: https://hastingshistoricalsociety.org/notable-residents/
Robert Penn Warren Center . (2023 , (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). Who Speaks for the Negro? Retrieved from Vanderbilt University : https://whospeaks.library.vanderbilt.edu/interviewee/kenneth-bancroft-clark