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Mamie Phipps Clark, Ph.D. and Kenneth Bancroft Clark, Ph.D.: Trailblazers in Psychology and Civil Ri

Mamie Phipps Clark and Kenneth Bancroft Clark were a husband and wife combination who significantly influenced both the American civil rights movement and the discipline of psychology. They were, respectively, the first and second Black individuals to be awarded a psychology Ph.D. by Columbia University.

Early Life and Education:

Kenneth Bancroft Clark was born in Harlem, New York, in 1914, while Mamie Phipps Clark was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1917. Both graduated from Howard University with bachelor's and master's degrees.

Research and Contributions

In the summer after her graduation from Howard University in 1938, Clark began to conduct studies on children's identities. She observed Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights attorneys working while she was a secretary in Charles Houston's law firm, where they would eventually play a crucial role in Brown v. Board of Education. The "doll test," developed by the Clarks, is most known for its use as evidence in the famous Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education.


Mamie Phipps Clark became the first African American woman to be awarded a PhD in psychology by Columbia University in 1943. Kenneth Bancroft Clark was the first African American to become a professor at the City College of New York and the first black president of the American Psychological Association.

Civil Rights Activism:

The Clarks were active in the NAACP and worked to desegregate schools in America. Their expertise allowed them to testify as expert witnesses in several school desegregation cases.


Today, the Clarks are remembered for their contributions to the field of psychology and the civil rights movement. Their work on the doll test and their efforts to desegregate schools in America helped to pave the way for greater equality and justice for African Americans.

Mamie Phipps Clark and Kenneth Bancroft Clark were trailblazers in the field of psychology and the civil rights movement. Their contributions to the field of psychology and their activism in the civil rights movement have had a lasting impact on American society.


[1] Sydney Feminists. (2019, February 14). The life of social psychologist Mamie Phipps Clark. Retrieved from

[2] Verywell Mind. (n.d.). Therapy for Black Girls Therapist Directory Review. Retrieved from

[3] Mental Health America. (n.d.). Black pioneers in mental health. Retrieved from

[4] American Psychological Association. (2008, November). America's first black female psychologist. Monitor on Psychology, 39(10), 26. Retrieved from

[5] Matlin, D. (2014, July 7). The unknown Kenneth B. Clark. Harvard University Press Blog. Retrieved from

[6] Well Being Trust. (2023, February 1). Recognizing and celebrating Black mental health trailblazers. Retrieved from



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