Born on 24th July 1914 in Panama Canal Zone, Kenneth Bancroft Clark is among the many African-Americans who played a major role in the fight against racial segregation in public schools. Having moved to New York at the age of 4 to live with his Jamaican mother and sister, Kenneth was able to get a formal education just like other white children. Despite experiencing a hard life in New York, Kenneth Clark finished his high school education with high grades to join Howard University where he received his bachelor and masters’ degrees. After meeting his future wife Mamie Phipps at Howard University, the two went on to pursue their doctoral studies at Columbia University where they continued studying about the effects of racism in public schools. In this article, we will highlight some interesting facts you may not have known about Kenneth B. Clark and his fight against racial segregation in public schools.
After attending George Washington High School, Kenneth Clark excelled in all subjects especially in economics and was thinking of pursuing economics as a future career. However, the young teenager diverted his career thoughts laying a subsequent decision to studying psychology after he was denied an honor for topping in the economics class. In most of his interviews, Kenneth remembers this moment as the first ever moment he experienced racial discrimination.
After joining Howard University, Kenneth’s idea was to study medicine. However, during his second year, he took a psychology class which diverted his decision to studying psychology. His lecturer and mentor Professor Francis Sumner, his future wife Mamie Phipps and a couple of other top performing students pushed him to further his studies at Columbia University where he became the first ever African-American candidate at the institution.
After studying psychology, Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie developed an interest in studying the effects of segregation to most kindergarten students in Washington D.C. The couple wrote several articles and books concerning the matter which later drew the attention of the NAACP. With the help of the NAACP, the findings were presented to the Supreme Court which later led to the overturning of the earlier Plessy V. Ferguson decision which had ruled “separate but equal” schooling for blacks and whites.
After his retirement, Kenneth Clark was appointed as one of the boards of trustees in Howard University and the University of Chicago. On 15th December 1961, Kenneth was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP for his contribution in the fight against racial inequality in public schools in the United States. In 1966, he was honored to even further by being appointed to the New York Board of Regents becoming the first ever African American to head such a respected body.