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Kenneth Clark

Kenneth Bancroft Clark (1914-2005) was an influential psychologist and professor, perhaps best known for his “doll” experiments with his wife Mamie Clark on the impacts of racial segregation on attitudes towards race in America.

Their work played an important role in the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision to desegregate the nation. Clark was the first Black president of the American Psychological Association and one of the first experts to testify on urban issues to the Kerner Commission. 

Clark studied political science during his undergraduate career at Howard University, where he later returned for a master in psychology. In 1940, Clark was the first Black American to earn a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University.

In addition to his achievements in the field of psychology, Clark founded Data Black Public Opinion Polls in 1979 — the first polling project focused on Black public opinion. Data Black addressed key problems Clark perceived with national polling organizations, including contacting too few Black respondents in a typical sample, asking Black respondents questions in the context of being American versus being Black, and drawing questionable conclusions about survey results regarding Black public opinion. 

Clark helped create educational and professional opportunities for disadvantaged youth through being one of the founding members of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU) in 1962. He conducted a comprehensive study of Harlem, measuring numerous trends in the area including crime rates, family income, and school locations.

Throughout his entire career, Clark was an active advocate for integration, providing his expertise in an interview with Robert Penn Warden for his book Who Speaks for the Negro?, leading the Society of Afro-American Students during the Columbia University Protests of 1968, and serving on the board of the New York Civil Rights Coalition until his passing in 2005.

Sources for this Biography: 


Richard Herzfelder, “Blacks Make Their Opinions Known,” The Argus-Press,1980,2124581 

Interview with Kenneth Clark: