Martin D. Jenkins was a Black educator and administrator, known for his pioneering work in the field of education.
Jenkins was born to David and Josephine Jenkins in Terre Haute, Indiana. Jenkins was educated in racially segregated public schools until his high school years when he attended the racially integrated Wiley High School. While attending Wiley, he was the captain of the track team. He graduated from Wiley in 1921. Jenkins later attended Howard University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics in 1925.
Between 1925 and 1930, he worked with his father’s firm, David Jenkins and Son, as a highway bridge contractor. Concurrently, he attended Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) and earned an Associate’s degree in teacher education. During a brief interim, Jenkins taught at Virginia State College.
In 1933, he received his Master’s degree and, in 1935 earned his Ph.D. in Education. While earning his doctorate, he studied under Prof. Paul A. Witty and wrote his dissertation called “A Socio-Psychological Study of Negro Children of Superior Intelligence.
Jenkins premier scholarship, “A Socio-Psychological Study of Negro Children of Superior Intelligence,” was among the first to focus on Black children of superior intelligence. Jenkins researched Black children of “superior intelligence” in grades 3-8 living in Chicago, Illinois.
Jenkins focused his study on black children from the United States in 1950. He wanted to see if he could discover any black children that could score in the 1% of white children, which would be an IQ of 130. And if a child had an IQ of 140 or above they were deemed gifted. At the time there were 16 studies done in which black children possessed an IQ of at least 130. And out of those 16 studies 12 of the kids had IQs well over 140, which was the bar for gifted children.