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January 21, 2009


NEW YORK, January 21, 2009 – “Toward Humanity and Racial Justice: The Legacy of Dr. Kenneth B. Clark,”  an exhibit on the life and work of the former City College of New York (CCNY) Professor of Psychology whose research influenced the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed school segregation, opened January 20, in CCNY’s Cohen Library. 

The opening coincided with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African- American elected President of the United States, 55 years after the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

The exhibit, which will be on display in the Library Atrium through May 3, is free and open to the public. The Cohen Library is located in North Academic Center building at W. 138th Street and Convent Avenue in Manhattan.

Professor Clark, a member of CCNY’s Psychology Department for 35 years, and his wife, Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark, also a psychologist, devoted their life’s work to combating the effects of racism on African-Americans.  In 1946 they established the Northside Center for Child Development to serve the social, emotional and psychological needs of Harlem’s youth.

In the 1954 “Brown v. Board of Education” ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional, their landmark studies provided scientific evidence that the prevailing “separate but equal” doctrine was psychologically damaging to minority children. The “doll test,” which showed black children often preferred playing with white dolls over black, was the first use of social science research in a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“Toward Humanity and Racial Justice” is co-curated by CCNY Professor William Gibbons, Reference Librarian, and Professor Sydney Van Nort, Chief of the Division of Archives and Special Collections in CCNY’s Cohen Library.  Adolfo Cuevas, a psychology major, and Isabel Perdom, an African-American Studies major, both students in CCNY’s Black Male Initiative program, served as contributing writers.

For more information about “Toward Humanity and Racial Justice: The Legacy of Dr. Kenneth B. Clark”, please call the Cohen Library at (212) 650-7271. 

About Dr. Kenneth B. Clark

Dr. Clark (1914-2005) and his wife Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983), both educational psychologists, challenged the notion of differences in the mental abilities of black and white children. In 1946, the Clarks founded the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem, where they conducted experiments on racial biases in education.

Their findings were presented at school desegregation trials in Virginia, South Carolina, and Delaware. In 1954, those findings were cited in a famous footnote to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional.

Dr. Clark achieved many firsts. He was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in psychology at Columbia, the first to hold a permanent professorship at City College, the first to join the New York State Board of Regents and to serve as president of the American Psychological Association. 

In addition to his work as a psychologist and educator, he assisted corporations with racial policies and minority hiring programs. His books include Prejudice and Your Child (1955), Dark Ghetto (1965), A Possible Reality (1972), and Pathos of Power (1975).

About The City College of New York

For more than 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The School of Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture (SAUDLA); The School of Education; The Grove School of Engineering, and The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. For additional information, visit