Earned her undergraduate and Master’s degree at Howard University. In 1943, Mamie became one of the first women, and the first black woman, to earn a Ph.D. in psychology at Columbia University.
While providing clinical services to homeless girls in Harlem, Mamie became aware of the lack of mental health resources in Harlem. This led her to create Northside which she founded in 1946 with the help of her husband, friends and family. The center immediately began to help families in the community who were struggling to overcome discrimination.
One of the Clarks' initial projects was to administer intelligence tests to children in the community who had been labeled mentally retarded. The test results provided parents with documentation to combat the racist profiling of their children. Their work also made the illegal practices of the school district public. As Northside grew into its respected role in the community and expanded its services, Mamie Clark served as the Executive Director until retiring in 1980. She died 3 years later, at the age of 65.
"All children belong to all of us. To respect and protect them is to preserve humanity."
Dr. Kenneth Clark
Earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Howard University in 1935, and earned his masters a year later. He then graduated with a Ph.D. from Columbia and was the first black male to do so. During the mid 1930's, Dr. Kenneth Clark worked as an assistant professor of psychology at Howard. His wife Mamie Phipps Clark had begun doing fieldwork on the effects of racial identity on the self-esteem of black school children. He soon joined her in this effort.
In later years, Dr. Clark continued to work to increase awareness of and combat racial inequities. In the late 1960s, Dr. Clark became the first African American elected to the New York State Board of Regents. He was the first black professor to gain tenure at the City University of New York and was a distinguished professor emeritus at City College. Dr. Clark also taught at Harvard, Columbia and the University of California and became the first black president of the American Psychological Association as well as the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. He was a prolific writer. Kenneth Clark died in 2005 at the age of 91.
In its historic 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court cited the pioneering research of Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark and Dr. Kenneth B. Clark. It was the first time social science research was used in a Supreme Court case.
Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that separating black children “…from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”
The Clarks’ research including the black and white doll studies continue to have a strong influence on the discipline of psychology and the history of race in this country.