Columbians Ahead of Their Time
Kenneth B. Clark & Mamie Phipps Clark
Kenneth B. Clark & Mamie Phipps Clark "This is probably one of the most dangerous things facing mankind today: A use and training of intelligence excluding moral sensitivity."

Kenneth B. Clark (1914–2005)
Educational Psychologist
PhD 1940
LLD 1970 (hon.)

Mamie Phipps Clark (1917–83)
Educational Psychologist
PhD 1943

The research of Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark challenged the notion of differences in the mental abilities of black and white children and so played an important role in the desegregation of American schools. In 1946, the Clarks founded the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem, where they conducted experiments on racial biases in education. Their findings were presented at school desegregation trials in Virginia, South Carolina, and Delaware. In 1954, in a famous footnote, those findings were cited in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., the landmark Supreme Court decision that ruled public-school segregation unconstitutional.

Kenneth Clark was the first African American to earn a doctorate in psychology at Columbia, to hold a permanent professorship at the City College of New York, to join the New York State Board of Regents and to serve as president of the American Psychological Association. In addition to his work as a psychologist and educator, he assisted corporations with racial policies and minority hiring programs. His books include Prejudice and Your Child (1955), Dark Ghetto (1965), A Possible Reality (1972), and Pathos of Power (1975). During Columbia's student protests in 1968, Clark, whose son Hilton (Columbia College 1968) was a leader of the Society of Afro-American Students, served as mediator between the black student protesters in Hamilton Hall and the administration.

Mamie Phipps began studying self-perception in black children as a graduate student at Howard University, where she met and married Kenneth Clark. Between 1939 and 1940, the two published three major articles on this subject. Phipps Clark continued her work at Columbia where, in 1943, she became the first African-American woman and the second African American (after her husband) in the University's history to receive a psychology doctorate. It was her work on the way black children seemed to prefer white dolls to black ones that particularly impressed the Supreme Court justices. In 1966, Columbia recognized the couple's work by awarding each the Nicholas Murray Butler Silver Medal.

Read more about Kenneth Clark in the Columbia Encyclopedia

Oral history of the Northside Center for Child Development

The Clarks’ pivotal role in a landmark court case

Harlem History

Archival treasures and interviews tell the story of one of the world's most famous and influential neighborhoods.

The New York Times tribute.

Columbians Ahead of Their Time

Columbians have changed the world and how we see it.

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