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Post Number: 261
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|Posted on Monday, May 02, 2005 - 09:00 am: ||
from the NYT...
Kenneth Clark, Who Helped End Segregation, Dies at 90
By RICHARD SEVERO
Published: May 2, 2005
Kenneth B. Clark, the psychologist and educator whose 1950 report
the destructive effect of school segregation influenced the United
Supreme Court to hold school segregation to be unconstitutional, died
his home in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 90.
His death was reported by his daughter, Kate C. Harris.
Dr. Clark was a leader in the civil rights movement that developed
World War II. He was the first black to earn a doctorate in psychology
Columbia University, the first to become a tenured instructor in the
system of New York and, in 1966, the first black elected to the New
State Board of Regents.
He wrote several influential books and articles and used his
prestige in academic and professional circles and as a participant on
government bodies and Congressional committees to advance the cause of
integration. He battled white supremacists and black separatists alike
believed that a "racist system inevitably destroys and damages human
brutalizes and dehumanizes them, black and white alike."
It was his research with black schoolchildren that became a pillar of
v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that toppled
"separate but equal" doctrine of racial segregation that prevailed in
While for decades Dr. Clark was one of the great national authorities
integration, his effect was particularly profound in New York City and
State. Mayors and governors consulted him, and he expressed firm views
virtually every delicate racial matter from school busing to housing
He was often fearless and blunt about his views, and willing to change
when the empirical evidence led him to believe that his original
were wrong. An early champion of a sweeping reorganization of New York
schools that gave greater control to community school boards, Dr.
commented that "the schools are no better and no worse than they were
"In terms of the basic objective," he said, "decentralization did not
damn bit of difference."
Dr. Clark, who grew up in New York, gained firsthand knowledge of the
effects of legally entrenched segregation in an extended visit, in the
1950's, to Clarendon County in central South Carolina. Its school
system had three
times as many blacks as whites, but white students received more than
percent of the funds earmarked for education.
Dr. Clark administered a test, which he had devised years earlier, to
those black children, who were ages 6 to 9. He showed them a black
doll and a
white doll and asked them what they thought of each. Eleven of them
that the black doll looked "bad," and nine of them thought that the
looked "nice." Seven of the 16 told Dr. Clark that they actually saw
themselves as being closest to the white doll in appearance when asked,
"Now show me
the doll that's most like you."
"These children saw themselves as inferior, and they accepted the
inferiority as part of reality," Dr. Clark said.
Dr. Clark's testing in Clarendon County was used by Thurgood Marshall
the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in its challenge to the
constitutionality of the separate-but-equal doctrine because it showed
actual damage to
children who were segregated and a violation of equal protection under
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren
its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and Marshall, who had
the case before the court, called Dr. Clark with the news. Dr. Clark
that Marshall told him that "Justice Warren had specifically mentioned
psychological testimony as key."
Dr. Clark added: "I confidently expected the segregation problem would
solved by 1960. That shows how na´ve I was."
An Unwavering Insistence
To the end, Dr. Clark remained committed to integration, although he
more pessimistic. For this, in part, he blamed neoconservative whites
thought, had betrayed the civil rights struggle; those blacks who
could succeed in isolation from whites; politicians of both races who
empty promises; and defeatists who came to think that integration and
racial harmony were "too difficult to achieve."
Renowned for the power of his oratory and writing over a career that
more than 50 years, Dr. Clark was uncompromising in his insistence
blacks be given equal rights and that even in the face of violence at
of racists, they must "adopt a courageous, calm and confident
Besides Ms. Harris, of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Osprey, Fla., he is
survived by his son, Hilton B. Clark of Manhattan, three grandchildren
great-grandchildren. Dr. Clark's wife died in 1983.
Kenneth Bancroft Clark was born in the Panama Canal Zone on July 14,
the son of Arthur Bancroft Clark and Miriam Hanson Clark. His parents
get along. Mrs. Clark yearned to return to the United States; Mr.
passenger agent with the United Fruit Company in Latin America, felt he
to stay where he was in order to earn a living. When Kenneth was only
mother decided to leave her husband. She took Kenneth and his younger
Beulah, to New York City, where Mrs. Clark took a job as a seamstress
sweatshop, struggling to pay the rent on a tenement apartment in
she helped organize a union where she worked and became a shop steward
the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Mrs. Clark and Kenneth
strong bond and years later, he would recall that she "somehow
me the excitement of people doing things together to help themselves."
In 1920, Kenneth entered Public School 5 in Harlem and soon thereafter
switched to P.S. 139, which later also educated James Baldwin. At
student body reflected the fact that Harlem contained substantial
Irish and Italians. By the time Kenneth Clark reached the ninth grade,
however, Harlem was changing and most of the students around him were
school, he was told to learn a trade and prepare for vocational
Clark would have none of that. She walked into school one day, told
counselor what she thought of vocational schools and made it clear
that as far as
she was concerned, her son was better than that. Kenneth thus went to
Washington High School in Upper Manhattan.
He was admitted to Howard University, where he studied political
with Dr. Ralph Bunche and where he came to admire Bertrand Russell and
Einstein. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1935 and returned to
next year for his master's degree in psychology. He also taught at
Howard for a
time, but soon departed for New York, where he pursued doctoral
Columbia University, receiving his Ph.D. in experimental psychology in
From 1939 to 1941 he took part in the classic study of the American
that was organized by Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish economist. The study,
documented the inequalities that obtained among American whites and
would be required reading in colleges and universities for years.
In 1942, Dr. Clark served for a time in the Office of War Information,
which he traveled about the United States in order to assess morale
blacks. He returned to New York late in the year and joined the
faculty of City
Mamie Phipps Clark, whom he had married in 1938, also earned a
psychology from Columbia and in 1946 joined him in founding the
Center for Child Development, which treated children with personality
At first, its services were offered only to blacks but in 1949, it
available to whites, too. That year, Dr. Clark was promoted to
professor of psychology at City College.
His interest in black children's perceptions of themselves went back
and 1940, when he and his wife conducted tests with dolls in New York
Washington. In those days, Washington had a segregated school system,
tests showed that black children in Washington had lower self-esteem
their peers in New York City.
On another occasion, Dr. Clark was in rural Arkansas and when he asked
black child which doll was most like him, the little boy smiled and
the brown doll and replied: "That's a nigger. I'm a nigger." Dr. Clark
he found that "as disturbing, or more disturbing, than the children in
Massachusetts who would refuse to answer the question or who would cry
and run out
of the room."
Taken as a whole, Dr. Clark said, the results repeatedly confirmed
American society in the segregated South was telling blacks that they
"inferior to other groups of human beings in the society."
Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, Dr. Clark was most active in New
City. In 1954 he had assailed the city school system with permitting
segregation, pointing out that because of this, especially in places
Harlem, "children not only feel inferior but are inferior in academic
After an investigation supported his charges, he was named to lead a
of Education commission to see to the integration of city schools and
for smaller classes, an enriched curriculum and better facilities in
city's slum schools.
During this period he also served as a visiting professor both at
and at the University of California, Berkeley. He became a full
professor in the city university system in 1960 and in 1961 won the
of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for
contributions to promoting better race relations.
A Fight for Harlem
In 1962, Dr. Clark organized Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, or
Haryou, in an effort to recruit educational experts to reorganize
provide for preschool programs and after-school remedial education and
unemployment among blacks who had dropped out of school. Two years
committee headed by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy endorsed
and as a result, President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration
million to finance the program.
But the program was placed under the administration of a joint
formed by the merger of Haryou and Associated Community Teams, a pet
of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the Harlem Congressman and minister. Mr.
and Dr. Clark, who served as acting chairman of Haryou-Act, clashed
selection of an executive director. Mr. Powell charged that Dr. Clark
profit personally from control of the program. Dr. Clark denied this
that Mr. Powell saw the Haryou-Act program mostly in terms of the
power it gave him.
The struggle between the two was long and heated, and journalists
that the two grew to despise each other, something that Dr. Clark
"I liked him," Dr. Clark said of Mr. Powell. "Adam was one of the most
honest, corrupt human beings I have ever met. One of the reasons I
liked Adam is
that he had so few illusions.'
Dr. Clark quoted Mr. Powell as telling him, in the middle of the
controversy, "Ah, Kenneth, stop being a child. If you come along with
me, we can split a
million bucks." Dr. Clark explained that what Mr. Powell didn't
was: "I didn't want any million dollars. What the hell was I going to
a million dollars?"
In 1950, Dr. Clark became convinced he should move his family from New
City to Westchester County. He wanted to leave Harlem because he and
could not bear to send their children to the public schools that he
trying so hard to improve but were failing anyhow. "My children have
life," he said.
At the same time, he decided that perhaps the way to hasten the
of city schools was to decentralize them. But after the schools were
decentralized, they continued their decline. Dr. Clark came to think of
decentralization experiment as a "disaster," failing to achieve any of
objectives he had sought.
By the 1970's, after the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
Jr. and John and Robert Kennedy, and the difficulty in achieving
in the North, many blacks were growing more wary of whites, more
about overcoming prejudice and achieving racial equality. Dr. Clark
discouraged too, but he remained a firm advocate of the integration of
society. His colleagues described him as "an incorrigible
convinced of the rightness of the civil rights struggle and certain
that the nation
could not and should not go back.
In 1973, with a backlash to integration mounting, Dr. Clark said in an
interview in The New York Times Magazine that "one of the things that
most is the sophisticated form of intellectual white backlash," citing
writings of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, among others. "In their ivory
have lost all empathy with low-income people and black people. They
seeking to repudiate their own past liberal positions, fighting
against their own
heritage at the expense of the poor."
Dr. Clark said he neither admired nor respected such intellectuals and
he was "breaking all ties with them." A registered Democrat, Dr. Clark
out of his way in 1976 to support the incumbent United States senator,
L. Buckley, a conservative Republican, in his unsuccessful race
Moynihan, the Democratic candidate.
Dr. Clark's candor was evenhanded. Late in life, he said he had not
heartened by the ascendancy of blacks in public life because it had not
translated into a fundamental change in the condition of ordinary black
said he thought white Americans admired accomplished blacks like Colin
as long as there were not "too many of them" and they did not threaten
hegemony in American society.
He remained active and vocal. In the 1980's, he expressed anger over
assertions that blacks were the cause of their own problems. In 1986,
he called on
the New York State Board of Regents to supersede the authority of
boards if they chronically reported low test scores. He also spoke out
deteriorating relations between blacks and Jews, asserting that the
had been too much about anti-Semitism among blacks and not enough
anti-black sentiment among the Jews.
He irritated separatists when he quit the board of Antioch College
agreed to black demands for the establishment of a dormitory and study
program that excluded whites. And some blacks in Washington became
upset with Dr.
Clark, whom they had hired to evaluate their black-run school system,
concluded that it wasn't very good and that what students needed was
teachers and tougher basic courses. He also suggested that whatever
black children spoke in the streets, they ought to be required to use
American English in school.
Dr. Clark was something of a legend in the City University system. And
was quick to say what all really great teachers say: that in the
teaching, a good professor learned more than his students.
He retired from City University in 1975 and, looking back on more than
third of a century of work there, said he thought that the students of
1940's and '50's had been better at asking probing questions. Dr.
Clark was not so
impressed with the students of the 1960's and said he thought their
revolution "was pure fluff." He also retired from the Metropolitan
Center, which he had founded eight years earlier, and embarked on a
business on race relations and affirmative action.
Dr. Clark's books included "Dark Ghetto" (1965); "A Relevant War
Poverty" (1969); "A Possible Reality," (1972); and "Pathos of Power"
Despite the many honors he won and the respect he commanded, Dr. Clark
he thought his life had been a serious of "magnificent failures." In
the age of 78, he confessed: "I am pessimistic and I don't like that.
don't like the fact that I am more pessimistic now than I was two
Yet as a conscience of New York politics and of the civil rights
he remained an unreconstructed, if anguished, integrationist. A decade
during one of his last lengthy interviews, he chain-smoked Marlboros
home, flanked by vivid African carvings and walls of books wrapped in
dust jackets, as he professed optimism but repeatedly expressed
disappointment over dashed expectations about experiments in school
admissions at City University and affirmative action.
"There's no question that there have been changes," he said then.
not as deep as they appear to be."
Among the cosmetic changes was an rhetorical evolution from Negro to
to African-American. What, he was asked, was the best thing for blacks
"White," he replied.
He said a lack of meaningful progress could be blamed on blacks who
themselves only as victims and on whites too narrow-minded to
recognize their own
self-interest in black success. As whites become a minority in a
country, he was asked, won't they see that it is in their interest
"They're not that bright," he replied. "I don't think you can expect
to understand the effects of prejudice and discrimination against
affecting them. If whites really understood, they would do something