Kenneth Bancroft Clarke was born on the 24th day of July, 1914 in the Panama Canal region. Kenneth was the son of Arthur Bancroft and Miriam Clark who were all Jamaican natives. Arthur Clark the father of Kenneth had a very stable employment in Panama where he worked for the United Fruit Company as a cargo superintendent. However, Miriam, his wife wanted more for her kids (Kenneth and her younger sister). Miriam wanted her children to receive the American education and be brought up there, she considered that there existed many opportunities for her kids in America than those within where they were born (Scott, 2007).
Due to this she moved into Harlem New York whereby the children were enrolled in to the public schools. However, on the other hand, Arthur Clark opted to remain in panama and he was not eager of leaving his job as a manager and move to a new country where his chances of getting a similar position would be very difficult or almost impossible considering the fact that racism was very high at those times in America. When Kenneth Clark left panama and his father behind to go to New York and try a new life there, he was 4 years old. When they arrived in New York, his mother was employed as a seamstress and they ended up settling in Harlem which was at the time referred to as Manhattan (Clark & Klein, 2004).
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Philogene (2004) asserts that Harlem in during the time that Clark was growing up was a diverse region in terms of ethnicity. The African American population during this time was growing up rapidly in Harlem and it was during this time that famous and prominent African American writers, artists, scholars and musicians had their stars shine. This period was later to be referred to as the Harlem renaissance. The renaissance would not come up at an other better time than this, most researchers and scholars believe that the renaissance might have contributed positively to Clark becoming of age because he had so many role models and mentors splitting up to prominence and from whom he would learn one or two things (Terkel, 2005).
The positive accomplishments by the African American individuals and their success helped mould Clark into becoming focused and wishing to accomplish and become a renowned person too. Clark Kenneth was later to enroll into the public schools whose majority of the learners were whites. Despite the fact that Kenneth was black, the teachers gave him the same treatment as the one accorded to the white students and they expected him to perform equally better like the rest (Keppel, 2005). Race was no excuse for failure; academic excellence was the same for all the learners regardless of our background. It is this treatment and experience that later played a role in influencing profoundly Clark's career and researches.
Although Clark attended white public schools, he never escaped being disintegrated because of his skin color. In fact racism hit him hard in his youth. His mother could not stand the fact that the system was trying to feed into his son's head, she fought so hard to ensure that Kenneth Clark attended academic high schools refuting the fact that the system in existence at this time was trying to force the son into joining a vocational training college (The author. 2011). The mother's struggles did not go to vain because the son was later to be admitted into George Washington high school. In high school, Kenneth was very bright, his performance in all the school subjects was so good, most of all he was very good in economics.
However, Kenneth was disenchanted when one of his teachers refused to give him an academic excellence award basing his race as an excuse for doing so (Clark & Klein, 2004). Despite all this oppression and exploitation, where other individuals were considered to be more valuable than others, the spirits of Kenneth were never dwindled, he studied hard and he was later admitted to Howard University which at the time was the country's most prominent higher learning institution for the African Americans. When Clark enrolled in the university, he was there to become a physician; however, this course was to be changed by a second year psychology course. Clark was very much intrigued by the complexities that existed in human behavior, other factors like racism and the origin of emotions made Clark to become a psychology major.
According to Clark & Klein (2004) Clark graduated with a bachelor's degree in the year 1935 ands the following year he received his master's degree. As a student in Howard, Clark was editing the school magazine and organized students groups to picket the local restaurants because they were not serving African Americans. Clark wanted to enroll for a doctorate program in Howard but the encouragement from his professors to seek a more prestigious campus made him apply to the Columbia University in the city of New York. In 1940, Clark was to become the first African American to be bestowed with a doctorate degree in psychology from the famous Colombia University. His wife (Mamie Phipps Clark) whom he had m\et in Howard and married in 1938 followed site after him (Philogene, 2004). She was to graduate with a doctorate degree in psychology in 1943 from Columbia University. Mamie Clark was the second African American to graduate with this degree from Columbia University immediately after her husband. On the other part, she was the first African American woman to receive this degree.
Racism and its effects; studies by Clark
Immediately Clark received his doctorate degree, he spent a year teaching a back Virginia College. This was to be followed by another one year working as an analyst in the United States office of war information. It was in the year 1942 that Clark decided to concentrate and put his entire concentration in psychology at the psychology department of city college of New York (CCNY) as an instructor. He was later to be reinstated as a full time professor in 1960. Clark taught in the college till his retirement in 1975 (Philogene, 2004). During the first years at CCNY, Clark concentrated in research. One of these researches was on the effects of segregation and the effects it had on students. The research was carried on kindergarten learners in Washington DC. In the research that took approximately a decade, the couple published a number of articles in major journals earning themselves a reputation in the field.
The white house conference on children and youth held in 1950 built his reputation significantly. Clark was able to present to the conference a summary regarding the existing evidence on segregation and its effects to the American children. The report he presented in this conference was later published in 1955 after being revised as Prejudice and Your Child (Scott, 2007). Robert Carter the associate counsel of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was intrigued by the work the couple had done show casing how segregation was negatively affecting the children especially their self esteem, he invited them (Mr. and Mrs. Clark) to give a helping hand to the NAACP legal defense and Education fund in the preparation of the school segregation cases. Though at first Clark had his own doubts regarding the role and effectiveness of the legal system in curing the core segregation problems, they accepted the invitation. Later Clark admitted that this was maybe due to his envy that after a long time, the government had decided to take a step in rectifying the problems that the education systems were experiencing (The author. 2011).
The role that Clark played in the legal defense and education fund was very essential; he would prepare the material needed in court cases together with providing his testimony as an expert about the effects of segregation. In other instances, he would prepare social science resources and materials for the briefings with the help of numerous experts that he helped bring into the fight. One of his cases involved the dolls that he would employ to show how racism and segregation worked. In this doll test, developed by Clark and his wife, he would employ two white and two black dolls in assessing how the African American children perceived themselves and their esteem (Terkel, 2005).
In the test, Clark would give to the children both white and black dolls and asks them to identify those dolls that looked much like them. Clark would also request them to attach labels both good and bad to the dolls. In addition, the children would be asked to vote for the dolls they considered "nice" and which they liked most. The results of this test were very devastating, most of the children in the class identified the race of the dolls correctly however, when it came to picking the dolls that almost resembled them; half the children picked the white dolls. More than half the class settled on the white dolls as nice while the same proportion settled for the black doll as bad (Clark & Klein, 2004). From these outcomes, it is clear that a large percentage of black children had come to believe that when comparing the black and white people in the society, the blacks were very insignificant to the whites. The children had been grilled by the society into believing that the blacks were inferior to the white (The author. 2011).
The use of the dolls test was to show to the society how the psychology of people has been influenced and rendered useless by racism. The test was administered in various places and to all the children who were tested; majority preferred the white dolls to the black dolls. In fact most children rejected and behaved negatively to the black dolls. To the couple, the results of this test were an indisputable fact about how racism elicits negative outcomes in a person's personality and psychological development. Those at the risk of contracting these problems were the lack children (Terkel, 2005). The outcomes of this research led to Clark being requested to prepare the report that was presented in the white house conference on the youths and children that was held in 1950. The research by Clark in NAACP was a major boost in the 1954 Supreme Court on Brown vs. Board Of Education which led to the segregation of schools being outlawed and considered unconstitutional (Keppel, 2005)..
Clark and his colleges were able to bring to the attention of the court how segregation was able to make the black children feel inferior, rejected and develop low self esteems in front of their white counterparts. This is the end was reflected in their bad performances in schools and the general learning process. Clark's contribution to court cases can be reflected in the unanimous decision that was arrived at by chief justice Earl Warren. The chief justice is said to have said that the issue of segregating children was denoting the Negro's inferiority and this sense of feeling inferior affected directly a child's motivation to learn (The author. 2011).
After the Brown's case, Clark was to become an advocate in the issue of school integration in the coming years and a leader of the civil rights movements as he continued with his studies on how racism affected people negatively. In addition to this, Clark was urging the government to employ the results arrived at by the social sciences in trying to solve the problems that were facing the nations in relation to race. Scott (2007) asserts that in 1966, Clark authored a book, Dark Ghetto, which reflected on the effects of racial oppressions and the pathologies that were resulting from the American ghettos.
Apart from fighting for equal opportunities for the blacks, the Clark couple contributed in a number of ways to the black community. As the couple progressed with their research, they documented pathetic conditions of social services in Harlem and how much they were in dire need for renovations. However, the city did not respond to these pleas and the available services were never expanded to include the black population within the area, this led to the formation of the Northside Testing and Consultation Centre which was later renamed the Northside Center For Child Development (Keppel, 2005). The center offered mental health and other services to the Harlem children. HARYOU was founded by federal funds by Clark in 1962.
The program was meant to aid the youths who ailed from Harlem but were disadvantaged. It is indisputable that the work of Kenneth and his wife challenged the notion that existed between the black and white children. This research laid the end to segregation and led to the schools being integrated because of the various effects that arose from it. Mamie Phipps died in 1983 while her husband Kenneth Clark died in 2005 from cancer. However, their contributions to the society especially the African American society live with us forever and to the rest, we were taught on the effects of segregation.
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