Mamie Clark

Topics: Racial segregation, Brown v. Board of Education, New York City Pages: 5 (842 words) Published: October 16, 2014

Contributions to Psychology

Mamie Phipps Clark played an important role in the civil right movement, as her work with her husband demonstrated that concept of "separate but equal" provided a far from equal education for black youth. Her investigations into self-concept among minorities inspired further research on the subject and opened up new areas of research within the field of developmental psychology. Unfortunately, her important contributions have often been overlooked in the past, with psychology history courses and textbooks mentioning her only in passing. In his book History of Psychology, author David Hothersall notes that minorities, including black and female psychologists, have long been neglected in psychology histories.


After graduating, Clark found that finding good job opportunities was difficult. "Although my husband had earlier secured a teaching position at the City College of New York, following my graduation it soon became apparent to me that a black female with a Ph.D. in psychology was an unwanted anomaly in New York City in the early 1940's," she later explained. After working briefly analyzing data for the American Public Health Association, she moved on to a position as a research psychologist for the United States Armed Forces Institute. While working as a testing psychologist at an organization for homeless black girls, Clark noted how limited mental health services were for minority children. In 1946, Clark and her husband founded the Northside Center for Child Development, which was the first agency to offer psychological services to children and families living in the Harlem area. Clark continued to serve as the Northside Center's director until her retirement in 1979. The Clark Doll Test

In a classic experiment, the Clark's showed black children two dolls that was identical in every way except that one doll was white and one was black. The children were then asked a series of questions including which doll they preferred to play with, which doll was a "nice" doll, which one was a "bad” doll, and which one looked most like the child. The researchers discovered that not only would many of the children identify the black doll as the "bad" one; nearly 50-percent selected the white doll as the one they most resembled. When black students from segregated schools were compared to integrated school districts, the results revealed that kids from segregated schools were more likely to describe the white doll as the "nice" one. The experiment played an important role in the Brown vs. the Board of Education case by demonstrating the harmful effects of segregation on children. The Supreme Court went on to rule that racial segregation in U.S. schools was unconstitutional.

Mamie Clark Dies; Psychologist Aided Blacks
Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark, a psychologist who collaborated with her husband, Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, on research into the detrimental effects on black children of segregation in the public schools, died of cancer at her home in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. She was 65 years old. The Clarks' research and their numerous articles were used extensively by the N.A.A.C.P. and other groups in arguments to the United States Supreme Court that led in 1954 to the landmark decision in Brown v. the Board of Education, Topeka, Kan. The ruling found public school segregation unconstitutional. In addition to conducting research, Dr. Mamie Clark established the Northside Child Development Center in Harlem in 1946. The center began as an agency dealing with the psychological problems of black children in Harlem. It was expanded; however, to assist black families whose problems, Dr. Clark once wrote, were ''neither purely psychiatric, purely social, nor purely environmental, but psychosocial.'' She served as director of Northside until her retirement in 1980. She...

References: Butler, S. N. (2009). Mamie Katherine Phipps Clark (1917–1983). The Encyclopedia of
Arkansas History and Culture
Cherry, K. (2014). Mamie Phipps Clark Biography. Retrieved from
Warren, W. (1999) Black women scientists in the United States. Bloomington, IN: Indiana
University Press.
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